Playing well with others is an essential life skill that starts in toddlerhood and lasts long past, when the toys are replaced by activities, work and daily life. What’s a good way to teach your child about healthy relationships with other people? Be a good friend to those around you and treat strangers with courtesy and respect.
Here are four tips:
Share and Be Generous
You may find that your toddler instinctively starts to claim all toys as “Mine!” Teach him or her generosity by being generous yourself. For example, cut an apple in half and share one side of it with your child or another family member. The more your child sees the joy you spread to others by being generous, the more your child will want to mimic that behavior.
Honesty Is the Best Policy
Perhaps your in-laws want to visit but you’re in need of a low-key weekend. When replying to your in-laws’ request, consider directly communicating the real reason, rather than stretching the truth. You might also offer them an alternate date when things will be less chaotic. Although you may think that a little “fib” now and again is OK, it teaches your toddler that dishonesty is acceptable when convenient. Instead, teach your child that honesty helps build – and maintain – healthy relationships with those around you.
Be Helpful and Kind
Whether stopping to help someone pick up packages that they dropped in a grocery store aisle, or holding the door open for someone at a coffee shop, your general courteousness toward others will rub off on your toddler. Soon, you’ll notice that he or she says “please” and “thank you” more often, is aware of friends’ preferences, and acknowledges siblings’ need for their turn to slide down the slide. By displaying kindness and helpful behavior, you likely will raise a giving, caring individual.
Learn to Play
As with other life lessons, “play” is something that to some degree is a learned behavior, according to various studies on the subject. Show ease, fun and lightheartedness when interacting with your children, spouse and friends. For example, make up an amusing or thoughtful morning song for family members to sing, or engage after work in creative play-acting as a family – such as deciding to open a “pretend” family restaurant, and promoting your child to be the restaurant manager or head chef.
Take a lesson from your own book of life: If you want to teach your toddler about healthy relationships with other people, then demonstrate what “healthy” looks like by the way you treat and engage with others. As the saying goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words.”