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Encouraging Your Toddlers Caring Side

You probably find that little toddlers can be very kind and sweet but this is not always the case. How do you encourage their sympathetic side?

Toddlers have an in-built ability to be caring and this can be seen when she tries to comfort you if she thinks you are upset or offering her sibling or friends toys or food. Toddlers also have competing instincts too and this can mean that they behave pretty anti-socially sometimes. When your toddler pushes her friend out of the way to get to some food, her need to eat outweighs her desire to share. When she wants to play on a climbing frame on her own and is cross there are other children in the way, her yearning to perform well at climbing or going down the slide is stronger than her wanting to share the play equipment with her friends.

When a toddler experiences adults being unkind to each other, chances are she will emulate this behaviour. If mum and dad are shouting at each other and fighting to get their own way then she will no doubt do this when she too wants her own way.

There are three skills that psychologists have identified in toddlers that behave in kind and caring ways. They are sharing, empathy and cooperation. Sharing can be seen when your toddler gives something to another child generously without expecting anything in return. Empathy can be seen when your toddler cries because she sees you or another person is upset. It is not a case of her feeling sorry for you, she is genuinely upset herself. Cooperation happens when your toddler works with others to achieve a common goal.

These skills do not come easy or naturally to all children. Most toddlers are largely aware of just themselves and their own needs. Sometimes you have to explain that she must think of others too and demonstrate how. If you think your toddler has a tendency to be selfish regularly then it is about nipping the behaviour in the bud as quickly as possible and also trying to discourage her before any anti-social behaviour ensues. Providing as many opportunities for your toddler to be kind, caring and friendly is the best way to deal with this. Duties such as helping you with chores or helping a sibling with finishing a puzzle, getting dressed or tiding up are good examples. These tasks teach your toddler how to help and care for others and it will soon come naturally to her.

You could buy a low maintenance pet like a goldfish and ask her to help you feed it each morning. This can boost the caring nature in your child as she will feel so rewarded for being responsible for the welfare of another living creature. You obviously need to supervise your toddler but let her feel as if she is in charge.

Other ways to discourage selfish behaviour:

  • Always praise caring behaviour
  • Set a good example so she knows what you expect from her in terms of being kind to others
  • Tell her how happy it makes you when she is being kind and obedient
  • Encourage sharing at home so she does the same at nursery
  • The whole family should follow the zero tolerance rule of unkind behaviour so she feels included and not confused

By Eirian Hallinan

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