Everyone jokes that the toddler years are the worst. I will admit I am guilty of that as well. While difficult, they are on par with every other stage from infancy to adulthood. The main difference is that we seem to associate this stage with being more emotional than others.
Having two toddlers in our home means that at moments notice you will hear someone yelling “that’s mine” or “give it back”! Sharing is a big source of contention with our girls. Followed by loud screams and then cries. No matter how much my husband and I try and teach the girls that it’s okay to share, or to be patient and wait for their turn-nothing seems to work.
This is where we have to remind ourselves, they are just two and three years old.
I know there is this new wave of teaching children NOT to share, however, that is not happening in our house. We believe that teaching children to share, also makes them more empathetic as well.
So I decided to take a completely different approach to this: I’ll work on focus on teaching them empathy, and hope that the rest just happens.
As hard as this stage may be for some, it is not impossible to deal with. We have to remember that toddlers are people just like we are, and sometimes the only way they can express their joy, anger, sadness or any other feeling is with an over the top action. Luckily there are some key things that you can do to help get your child on the right track to expressing themselves the right way.
Practice, Practice, Practice.
This stage can be difficult for young kids. They are coming from a time during infancy where every want and need expressed, was met. Now they are being told it’s not like that. They have to use their words, they have to try and do it on their own first. This step is one where take almost any moment a teachable one. If Isla is upset over something, we have started teaching and letting Sarah help console her. It can be something as simple as “Isla is upset Sarah. Maybe we can give her a doll to play with?” By doing this, it allows her to learn about responding to other people’s feelings.
Show and Tell
Modeling behaviors you want to show your child is one of the best ways to teach. Simple actions such as holding open a door for a stranger. Remember that kindness is a choice that we make. Show your kids that being kind is its own reward.
Speak it into Existence
Using positive words and phrases reinforces awareness about others feelings. For example, leaving little notes in your child’s lunch box or daily words of affirmation can be started at any age. Empathy and showing your child how much you appreciate them go hand in hand. Don’t forget to acknowledge their emotions as well. Using words to show your child that you care when they are hurt or upset, models the same type of behavior that you want them to show to others.
We have been practicing this just for a few weeks now. Things have gotten better but even as I write this they are arguing over an Elsa doll. With time, I am hoping that they learn to play better together, and there is less dramatics in our house.
What types of ways do you teach empathy for your children?