You may think that your toddler or preschooler is being rude to his playground buddies, but kids at this stage of development often don’t think about the needs of others. They have a fundamentally healthy selfishness that helps them figure out their place in the world. Or perhaps you’re worried that your child is so much shier and less outgoing than other kids, but he may simply need time to warm up. You may even think that your little one’s shyness comes across as rude to other kids or their parents, but he’s not behaving this way on purpose. Teaching your child the ropes of social play will help him to adapt to his playground buddies and teach him kindness and respect for others.
If you want to keep your toddler or preschooler engaged while you teach her manners, try to make the lessons as fun as possible. Use fun stories to help your child understand how to share with others and say “please” and “thank you.” You can also have your child draw pictures of what it looks like when people are using their manners, or encourage your little one to make a collage including images of people showing kindness, sharing with one another or being cooperative.
Breaking the Ice
One day when you and your shy child are on the playground together, encourage him to approach some of his peers (giving him specifics, such as what to say, can help). If coercing him in the real situation is too much, try role playing to show him how easy it can be to say a simple “hi” near the swing sets. Don’t pressure your tot when you’re role playing–instead, give him lots of reassurance. Let him practice being a shy kid on the playground, then switch to letting him be a more outgoing kid after he watches you play the role. You can also encourage your little one to draw images of what it might look like if he asked one of his classmates to play at school and the schoolmate said “yes.” Imagining this activity beforehand can boost your tot’s confidence.
Using Your Reactions
Remember, your seemingly rude toddler or preschooler doesn’t quite have an awareness of others’ feelings. You’ll have to teach him how to share and play with others in a way that acknowledges this limited awareness. Instead of being hard on your toddler, try demonstrating to him that snatching toys out of your hands makes you sad. Exaggerate your reaction so that he clearly gets this picture. Show your toddler how to say “please” and “thank you” when asking his buddies to share toys, then make a big show out of being pleased by his behavior.
One of the best ways for your preschooler to learn good manners is to see them in action–demonstrated by mommy and daddy. If your toddler sees you yelling at people in traffic, she may imitate you by yelling at kids hogging up the kitchen area at her daycare. If your tot often hears you saying “please” and “thank you,” then she’s likely to use these phrases as well.