Saturday, January 1, 2011
Even the youngest children may accept social rules more readily if they are shown the reasons. Rather than a flat “No!” try suing “No: you line up on this end” to explain to a toddler why she must not butt into the front of a line. Older children can absorb a more detailed explanation: “Everyone wants to be first in line, but only one child can have that place, and she got there first.” Pointing out what is gained by cooperative behavior the fact that she will have more friends and fewer battles lets the youngster know that your instructions are not merely parental whims.
As in every other area of child rearing, you will get much more mileage from a pinch of positive reinforcement that from a bucketful of nagging criticism. Watch for opportunities to praise your youngster’s positive behavior, and discourage antisocial actions not with scolding and punishment, but by demonstrating praiseworthy alternatives. If your toddler is overly possessive of his toys when other children visit, for example, you might ask him before a guest arrives to think about which toys he might like to share and which ones he wants to put away ahead of time. In this way, you reaffirm the importance of sharing while acknowledging the toddler’s deep seated need to own his toys. When sharing goes well, be sure to praise him- not just for being good, but specifically for sharing, which reinforces the concept once more in his mind and gives him a rush of pride that will prompt him to do it again.
It will probably take dozens of small lessons such as this one before your child is ready to practice the social graces on his own, but the ultimate goal- the abiding pleasures of having friends and being a friend to others- is well worth your efforts.