20 month old - Social Skills

Dr. Laura

My 20 month old son has come a long way with his behavior around other kids, especially when there are big groups like at a play date or the playground. I set up the expectations, I'm right by his side to keep him and others safe, and I follow through with leaving if need be. I focus on the positive and I do see that he's making a lot of progress on his impulse control and is even beginning to share. For example, he's already started to show empathy. When a little girl fell and started crying the other day, he rushed to give her his toy.

I find myself wondering how much longer he's going to need me right by his side. At an Attachment Parenting International meeting yesterday, I was the only parent glued to my child to ensure everyone's safety. All the other moms were able to sit and participate in the conversation while I chased him around the room. When will he be able to play by himself?

Thank you!

It sounds like your little guy is on the sensitive side. He's already showing empathy -- that is early. And he needs you by his side in large groups or he gets overwhelmed and lashes out. So I understand it is frustrating to have to be glued to him. On the other hand, you are seeing that he's made a lot of progress, so you're definitely on the right track in making him feel more secure.

I can't give you a prediction on when he'll be able to navigate by himself, but you can hasten that day by modeling as you intervene. For instance, if he is casting worried looks at another child while clutching a toy, you smile at the other child and say "Sam likes the truck, too.....But that's okay, Sweetie. Sam will wait his turn. Right now you have the truck. You can say 'My turn!' Can you say that to Sam? Great! See, Sam is going to play with the train now. Come, let's go over here with the truck." Then you take him a bit out of the fray where he can relax, so he learns to do that for himself.

I suspect that as he gets more language facility, he'll gain confidence in his negotiation skills. You can work on those at home, too. Good luck!

Dr. Laura

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I have seen amazing improvement in my *very* angry 17 year-old son after acknowledging that there was a reason he was so angry and acting out. We have had several heartfelt conversations and I have seen a real change in how he treats his younger brother, and how he treats me.


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