Is it me, or are toddlers and preschoolers focused on themselves? Of course, this is 110% developmentally normal behavior, but it can be very frustrating to deal with. There are several strategies I have found to help my littles be kind and polite, so I’ll start by sharing 4 of them.
One of the ways I try to help my kids think of others is through modeling the behavior I want. For example, when I’m trying to make sure they’re using manners, I make sure I say, “please” and “thank you” for EVERYTHING. Of course, this is good manners, but it can be overdone. The more examples the kids see though, the more apt they are to follow suit.
Show Guests Respect
One of Sweet Pea’s favorite things to do is walk our guests out. While she hasn’t done it in a while, she used to LOVE getting their shoes for them and “helping” them put on their shoes. She consistently walks our guests to the door and thanks them for coming (“Thank you for coming. (Have a) Safe drive!”). Depending on who comes over, she’s also usually on the porch blowing kisses and signing “I love you” while waving. Then, when they are in their car, pulling out of the driveway, she turns, comes in and closes the door. Why does she do this? Simple, she saw what we were doing and started copying us, but doing things her own way, as I’ve never gotten someone’s shoes for them or helped them put on their shoes….
Be an Includer & Think of Others
We’re trying to teach our children to be includers and welcome other people to play with them. When we’re at the park and see someone their age, we say, “Oh, look! There’s someone who you could play with. Would you like to see if he/she wants to play with you?” At home, Sweet Pea asks her brother, “Buddy Boy, would you like to…?” This has spilled over to Sweet Pea looking out for her little brother and making sure he’s included. For example, if an adult gives something to her, Sweet Pea often says, “and one for Brother?”. Or, on the rare occasion that we go somewhere without Buddy Boy and Sweet Pea has the opportunity to get something, she’ll choose one for her brother too. We always do our best to be aware of other people, their needs, and offer them stuff (a drink, snack, etc. when they come over) when they come over, so my guess is that Sweet Pea has been watching and is applying it in her own way. We also allow her to be involved in any way she wants to, which helps build her confidence and build her awareness of social etiquette.
Another way we are helping our kids think about others is by making cards and art for other people. For example, if Sweet Pea knows someone is coming over and is anxiously awaiting their arrival, I ask her if she wants to draw them a picture while she waits. Then, when they “finally” arrive, she proudly hands them the picture she drew.
We also make cards for others. This Valentine’s Day, we’re making cards and bringing them to a local senior citizen assisted living home. I’m also going to have the kids (mostly Sweet Pea, as Buddy Boy is a bit too young still) decorate and write one thing they love about their dad each day and we’ll stick it on the door for him to see when he comes home. So, my husband will have 14 days of “I love you because…” hearts greeting him each day. I’m also going to write one little note for each kid, and I’m doing it scrapbook size so that we can glue them to a page and stick them in their scrapbooks (ok, file folders… MAYBE they’ll make it into a scrapbook… someday). If you’d like hearts that you can simply print and cut out, check out my FREE activity sheet: I love you because…