Your toddler may have difficulty caring about others and cooperating with you. When asked to share, or return items she has confiscated, she is apt to respond by shouting, “Mine, mine, mine,” and might physically lash out without concern for the feelings of others. It isn’t too early to begin teaching your toddler about compassion and cooperation, and providing enjoyable activities will make her actually want to participate in the learning process.
Your tot can role-play caring and cooperation. Give your tot a doll or a stuffed animal to practice caring behavior. Tell him, “Touch soft and easy. You don’t want to hurt her. If you hurt her, she might cry.” Your tot can see a connection between his actions and their consequences. Ask him, “Show me how you would help me to care for a little brother or sister.” You might ask him to bring you a diaper or share a toy a baby enjoys.
Provide your tot with directions to encourage cooperation and caring. Ask, “Can you give everyone a napkin, please?” or “Would you ask Daddy if he wants some tea?” She could help you sort socks when you do the laundry or help you bring in several small items from the car. If a sibling cries or looks sad, ask, “Can you see why your brother is crying?” or “Can you play with him so he won’t feel sad?” Your tot might have her own ideas about how to show care for others once you get her started.
Your tot can understand that not having necessary supplies would make him sad or angry. If a sibling or friend doesn’t have crayons, suggest, “You could share your crayons with Wesley.” If he offers to share his cookies with someone who doesn’t have any, help him safely share and praise him for his thoughtfulness and generosity. When he gets too large for clothing to fit or no longer plays with some toys, he might be willing to cooperate as you box them up to donate or sell them to those who will make use of the items.
Young children enjoy stories, and the lessons taught through stories might remain in the child’s memory longer than a lecture. Read or create stories about caring and cooperation. Books that stress these character traits include “A Chair for My Mother” by Vera Williams, “The Berenstain Bears and No Girls Allowed” by Stan and Jan Berenstain and “The Lion and the Mouse” by Aesop.
- Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images