Little ones are often overly aggressive without even realizing it. Tiny, grabby hands and tight hugs from your little one can cause accidental pain and injury. However, you can teach gentleness to toddlers and preschoolers with a few interactive lessons that promote a soft touch and a calm spirit.
Gentleness with Animals
Toddlers and preschoolers are not always as gentle with animals as you would like. This is why you might see your little one carrying her kitten or puppy by the neck or squeezing it too tight, trying to give it a big, bear hug. Show your child how to be more gentle with real animals by using stuffed animals for practice. Find a stuffed animal that looks similar to a pet that your child already has or might soon have. Show and explain how to pick up the stuffed “pet,” hug and pet the animal gently. After a while, your little one will understand how to treat animals with gentleness and kindness on her own.
Gentleness with Family
Do you have a new baby in the house, or does your family have a lot of cousins who are very little? If your toddler or preschooler doesn’t fully understand how to treat people gently, he could accidentally hurt an infant or smaller child. Explain to your little one that infants and very small children are very delicate and fragile — and show him how to touch and react to an infant by using a baby doll as an example. Demonstrate how to gently touch the doll — and instruct your child to do the same while you talk about using soft hands.
Gentleness at School
Since you can’t always be with your little one throughout the day, especially while she is at preschool or day care, it’s often difficult to know whether your child is using gentleness when interacting others. What you can do, besides asking your child’s teacher whether she is acting appropriately, is to act out scenarios with your little to address incidents that could occur during the day. For example, you can pretend that you’re a classmate playing with a toy. Tell your child to pretend that she wants the toy — and ask her to get the toy how she would normally take it to see if she just grabs it away roughly. Afterwards, demonstrate the correct way to ask for the toy, using gentle words and gentle hands. You can use this tactic to act out many different opportunities at school to teach gentleness.
Gentleness with Self
What if your child acts very gently with other people and animals, but seems very hard on herself? Not every child does this, but if you have a child who is not gentle with herself, then you know how difficult it is to watch your little one hit herself, pull her own hair or call herself names. Usually this behavior results from frustration, so determining what frustrates your child is the first thing to do. Next, talk to your little one about how important she is — and because she’s so important, she should treat herself with gentleness and kindness. Demonstrate this by stroking her head softly saying, “You deserve to be treated nicely with soft hands and kind words.”