LEARNING TO CARE
Parents can easily become frustrated about their young children's social abilities when they see behaviors such as pushing, biting, shoving and pulling hair. It takes time - and lots of practice - for a young child to learn to care about the feelings of others. Toddlers, especially, just don't get it yet.
Children gradually learn how to be empathic and to put themselves in another's place by observing and experiencing empathy in action. When they are treated kindly and supportively and watch their parents and other caregivers acting toward one another with respect and understanding, they start to copy the behaviour.
Here are three ways to help encourage empathy in your child.
- If your child upsets another child, comment on how that child feels. Ask, "How would you feel if someone did that to you?"
- Think out loud about why others react the way they do.
- Give your child time to truly feel caring toward someone before asking her to behave in a caring way (for example, hugging another child).
LEARNING TO SHARE
Children don't really understand the concept of sharing until about age four, when they can talk enough to sort out who gets what and when they have learned to understand another child's point of view. Babies and toddlers just know that they want something, and they want it now.
At the next stage, three-year-olds spend a fair amount of their playtime working out who will have what, who will do what and who can play. By age four, a child is better able to exchange both ideas and toys; they like to give and take.
Here are some ways you can help your young child learn to share.
- Take turns with a toy when you play with your baby or toddler, and praise him when he shares.
- If your one- or two-year-old wants another child's toy, help her find some other interesting toy or activity so she learns to wait.
- Don't expect your child to be too generous too soon, and don't punish him for not sharing or taking turns.
- When your child is about three years old, help her sort it out with other children if an argument develops over a toy. This is generally the age at which children can begin to negotiate taking turns.