Teaching Your Toddler Social Skills

As your baby grows to be a toddler, her interactions with other people are increasing. Gone are the days when she would just observe. She now wants to join in! She is getting to be more social, but her social skills are still developing so, as her parent, it’s up to you to teach her how to interact with others in a healthy and positive way.

Below are five tips to follow when teaching your toddler social skills:

Be patient when teaching sharing
Toddlers are naturally selfish and so sharing is not an easy skill to learn! At this stage, children believe that if they let someone else play with their favourite toy, they’ll never see it again! So, because they haven’t yet grasped the concept, it’s best to ease your toddler into sharing rather than force it on her right away. Instead, play turn-taking games to help her realize that her possessions are still hers even if someone borrows them. For example, ask if you can take your turn and borrow her favourite toy for just a few moments and then make a big deal out of returning it. Telling your child you are “taking turns” with a toy will help her to understand that even if someone else plays with it, it’s still hers.

Set clear limits
Aggressive behaviour such as hitting and biting shouldn’t happen more than once before your toddler is told it’s unacceptable. If your child is hitting another child, for example, sit her in a time out for the full amount of time you have set (a good rule of thumb is a minute for each year of her age) and don’t give in. Going back on your word will only let her know that you don’t mean what you say and she can get away with it next time. Setting clear limits early on teaches your toddler that bad behaviour comes with consequence.

Teach healthy alternatives
When toddlers act out aggressively it’s usually because they can’t express themselves any other way. This may mean they don’t yet have the vocabulary to verbalize their emotions or may not understand why a situation is the way it is (such as having to share a toy). Encourage healthy alternatives by teaching your child to verbalize her emotions with words like “mad” or “upset” rather than getting physical. Or allow her to take her frustrations out on a pillow by punching or screaming into it rather than directing those negative emotions towards other children or adults.

Be a good role model
As your child’s parent, you’re the one she looks up to and imitates. Therefore, take every opportunity to model the behaviours you want her to use. If you are hurt or upset, for example, remain calm and use appropriate words to express how you are feeling. If you need to interrupt someone, say “excuse me”. Or if you receive a gift, say “thank you”.

Recognize efforts
if you notice your toddler sharing her toys or saying “please” or “thank you”, let her know! Telling your child that you are proud of her lets her know that her efforts have not gone unnoticed and will motivate her to continue with the good behaviour.

Learning how to socialize is an important component to your toddler’s overall development. As a parent, it’s important to teach your child the necessary skills that will help her manage her emotions in a positive way and form rewarding and lasting relationships.