Adorable Terror? 3 Ways To Cultivate Social And Emotional Awareness In Toddlers
Somehow, the parenting books didn't warn you that your adorable little baby would morph into a biting, toy-stealing little runner overnight. Yet, you just can't get mad when they flash you that devilish little grin. As frustrating as it can be to find yourself caught in the middle of a playground spat, it is reassuring to know that this is just another stage of development. Now that your toddler is able to move around and meet new people, they are trying to figure out exactly where the boundaries lie for normal behavior. Use these tips to help your child know how to respect other people's emotions while they work on learning how to socialize.
Model Appropriate Behavior
Toddlers watch the adults in their life for clues about how to treat others. In fact, their early experiences with you help to shape their later behaviors. Make sure to use language with your toddler that you want them to emulate, such as saying please and thank-you. Then, be careful to use gentle touches with your child, and ask them if they are okay when they are hurt. Over time, you will start to notice your child use these same strategies when they are at daycare or the playground.
Read and Talk About Emotions
As you've noticed by now, toddlers can have interesting emotional reactions, such as laughing when they fall down but switching to a cry once they notice you watching. Help your child gain a stronger understanding of emotional responses by reading books together that talk about happiness, sadness and anger. As you read, make sure to point out the expressions on the characters in the illustrations, and you can also act out the emotions with your toddler as you read so that they learn how to identify what others are feeling.
Show Them Age-Appropriate Ways to Resolve Conflicts
In your child's daycare, the teacher knows to stick close to toddlers so that they can help them learn how to resolve conflicts properly. For a toddler, this may take the form of helping the kids learn how to play with the same toy together, or they may help a child check on a friend who got bumped during rough play. At home, you can use these same techniques by working with your child to find an acceptable solution to their conflicts. For example, you might help them figure out how to take turns when they are trying to take over the only slide at the park.
While it does take time, your toddler will eventually learn how to manage their emotions and find ways to socialize that don't involve biting or fighting. By making it your mission to model desirable behavior while offering opportunities for your child to practice their developing social skills, you will help them make the transition into preschool with the ability to demonstrate social awareness.