CULTIVATING SOCIAL INTELLIGENCE FOR TODDLERS
Teaching social skills to toddlers might look like a big challenge as young children face several difficulties. First, they learn to manage their emotions, then they need to develop empathy towards others, and finally they have to learn to express their feelings and needs while respecting their peers. So, as a parent, your role is to assist them in developing their emotional intelligence.
Here are a few strategies to help your toddler:
1. Show empathy. When children receive a lot of empathy for their own feelings from the adults in their environment, then they develop empathy towards others early. Empathy being the cornerstone of successful interpersonal relationships, it is essential to cultivate it at a young age.
2. Do not force your toddler to share. Although it is a common belief to think that toddlers need to share, it is indeed counterproductive if your child is not ready. First, children need to feel secure in their ownership before being able to share. So, the first concept is to learn to take turns.
3. Stay close during playgroups. Toddlers who hit during social interactions do it because they feel overwhelmed by their emotions and do not know yet how to handle them. If an adult is there when the hitting is happening, then the adult can coach the child how to manage the situation without hitting. For instance, you can say: “Yes, Calvin took your bucket…is that okay with you? No? You can say “My bucket!” If your toddler knows you are here, she will feel safer, learn strategies to express herself without hitting.
4. Teach assertiveness to your child. If your toddler often lets other kids take away things from her and seems unhappy about it, then show her how to stand up for herself. For instance, tell her “If you are not ready to give that up, you can say “I am still playing with it.” Until your child develops her own language skills, you will need to be her “voice” when she plays with others.
5. Set clear limits on physical aggression. Children are entitled to their feelings, but they need to learn to express them appropriately. For instance, tell your child “You can tell us and show us how mad you are without hitting. You can call me, and I will always help you. Now, let’s tell Laura how you are feeling. You can say NO and stomp your feet as hard as you want.”
6. Give your child language for their feelings. It is never too early to start labeling emotions. This will help your toddler process her emotions verbally instead of physically. For instance, say “It is so frustrating when you work hard on your tower and it collapses like that. No wonder you are angry.”
Social skills are a crucial factor in predicting a child’s happiness in life. Studies show that it is indeed more critical than academic or financial success. So, give your children plenty of opportunities to develop and cultivate emotional intelligence.
As a parent and a therapist, I want to offer some tips on how to raise happy and healthy kids. Please feel free to comment on my posts.