Very young children enjoy solitary activities and don’t even pay much attention to other kids up to a certain age. During toddlerhood, their budding social skills begin to emerge, but not without any bumps in the road. Most toddlers are unwilling to lend their toys, struggle to communicate with playmates, and throw temper tantrums if something doesn’t go their way.
Can you help your child make friends? How do you curb their selfish behavior and teach them to share and cooperate with others? These are very common questions that parents ask, and for good reason. It’s crucial to help your child develop this important skill set at an early age, so you can set the stage for rewarding interpersonal relationships later in life.
Encourage peer interaction
First things first, you’ll have to expose your child to lots of peer to peer interaction. For example, you can set up playdates, take them to a kids’ gym, or sign them up for a toddler music class. The team at Uptown Jungle Mesa recommends plenty of active play alongside peers to promote both social and physical development. Group play is a great way for kids to learn how to regulate their emotions, respect others, and work together toward a common goal.
Focus on the positives
Observe your toddler’s behavior as they play with other kids. Make sure you praise them when you notice positive developments. Let them know you approve of what they did and explain why, in simple terms. For example, you may say: “It was really nice of you to share your crayons with your friend.” If you describe what aspect of their actions you found praiseworthy, they’ll know exactly what to do again next time. If you see fit, you can also give them a small reward.
Teach about negative consequences
If your little one isn’t playing nice, you can impose appropriate negative consequences for misbehavior. For example, they could lose a privilege or get assigned a small task. Before you introduce any of this, make sure they understand what type of proper behavior is expected of them. Do your best not to let your frustration show. Instead of letting your emotions get the better of you and focusing on what they did wrong, explain what they should be doing. Children only react a certain way because they don’t know any better, but if you offer a positive alternative, the chances are they will make better choices in the future.
Practice what you preach
If you tend to fly off the handle, you can expect your child to react in a similar way when a situation gets overwhelming. Lead by example and show them the proper model of social interaction. Play with them every chance you get and pay close attention to their reactions. During playtime, use the socially acceptable behavior you expect of them to reinforce it in their mind. When they exhibit inappropriate behavior with you, apply the same concept of praise and negative consequences.
Stick with it
Practice makes perfect. Although change doesn’t happen overnight and you may need to repeat some of the steps several times, if you’re consistent, your child will eventually get the hang of it and build strong bonds with peers. Never miss a chance to underline just how important it is to be considerate and respectful and give them plenty of opportunities to hone these skills daily. By sticking to these strategies during this formative period, you’ll help establish a healthy model for their future relationships and a happy, fulfilling existence.