It happens all the time – one toddler is playing nicely with a beloved toy when all of a sudden it’s taken by another toddler. Chaos ensues. Our parental instincts want to tell little ones that they should get along and share. But teaching children to “just get along” is a complicated concept, one that is best broken down into four elements that parents can focus on when developing their children’s abilities.
At Kiddie Academy, we focus on growing children’s awareness of acceptance, forgiveness, loyalty and teamwork to teach them how to get along with others. These four traits create a strong foundation for teaching little ones how to get along.
Children of preschool age are still developing compassion and kindness and are starting to notice differences between themselves and others. As they grow, children become more aware of other’s interests, cultures, strengths and feelings. They eventually develop understanding and empathy for others, which in turn develops their ability to accept others. Teaching your child to see these differences and be accepting of them helps them to empathize and in turn know how to coexist with others.
As a family, talk about the different things each family member likes to do and schedule time to participate in activities that meet the interests of each person. Take a trip to the zoo for someone who likes animals or visit a science museum for the one who likes experimenting. Use this as an opportunity to talk about the importance of supporting and accepting everyone’s interests.
Preschoolers are in the early stages of learning to play with others, which means they have to learn to problem solve and negotiate conflict. At first, children tend to focus on the actual behavior of someone instead of the reason behind the behavior and will need help from their parents or teachers when learning to forgive those actions. Teaching children the value of forgiveness and learning to let go of negative emotions helps develop kindness and compassion.
Modeling forgiveness at home is a great starting point for teaching this skill, but it’s also important to remember that young children still need help managing their emotional response and will need guidance in identifying others’ feelings.
Loyalty teaches children to value others and develop genuine care for their well-being. Toddlers naturally want to help and care for others. By giving them helpful tasks, we’re showing them they’re an integral part of the family, the classroom and the community as a whole.
Children often naturally develop loyalty when they feel love and guidance from a trusted adult, but you can also demonstrate loyalty in your home by showing up for each other. Attend a sibling’s sporting event or recital together, and create special traditions in your home for your child to think of fondly.
Cooperation is the basis of teamwork, and it’s mainly through play that toddlers learn this skill. Providing opportunities for children to work together and take turns can help develop this concept. Collaboration and cooperation games like piecing a puzzle together or keeping a balloon from touching the floor teach the value of teamwork in a fun way.
Make housework enjoyable by involving everyone and by turning tasks into a game. You could have your child try to throw laundry into the basket from different distances or race to see who can put away toys the fastest. It’s good to talk about how you’re all working as a team to show your toddler that teamwork can be fun and gets the job done quicker.
Once our children begin to see that each person has his or her own abilities and strengths, we can help celebrate them and learn about one another. We can guide our children to understand why people behave in certain ways and learn that despite our differences and our behaviors, we should be loyal to each other as members of the same community. In the end, developing acceptance, forgiveness, loyalty and teamwork will teach our children the value and ability of getting along with others.
Reading is also a great way to reinforce important concepts and values to your children. Some recommended books to help teach children to get along with others include: