Social Intelligence for PreSchoolers
Preschoolers are social creatures, generally very interested in other kids and quick to notice and adopt social norms. They're becoming more able to control themselves, and more able to verbalize their feelings, opening up a host of options beyond hitting and screaming. It's a perfect opportunity to teach them social habits that will help them throughout childhood.
Teach kids to negotiate peer relationships by talking with them
about their friends and the social scene in general. If you start
this in toddlerhood, and continue now, you'll give them valuable emotional tools -- and they'll be more open to talking
with you about these issues when they're in middle school.
1. Continue sensitizing your child to other people's experience. It's crucial that children develop empathy, not just so that they're nice people (although we all want that for our kids) but because reading the social cues of others is the only way to function in a complicated social world. Researchers watching children join new social groups found that kids who observe and pick up the rules of the group are readily accepted, those who don’t remain cast-outs.
2. Introduce the problem-solving concept of "We can find a solution that works for everyone." For instance, "Tiffany wants to play dress-up. Jade wants to play dolls. What could you both enjoy doing?" They may decide to play house, which could involve both dress-up and dolls. Or they may go outside to the swings. Either way, no one loses.
3. Supervise playdates as closely as required, but as loosely as possible.
The more kids have
opportunities to work through issues themselves, the more they learn to
do so. But you may well need to intervene at times. Kids do need adult help to model successful interpersonal conflict resolution.
4. Keep enforcing the “no-hitting- no-matter-what” rule. Help him explore ways of handling his anger that don't hurt others. Teach your child that if another child provokes them and they can't diffuse the situation, they need to seek adult help.
5. Be aware that preschoolers are exploring how power works. In other words, they want to get what they want, and they are still learning how to do that in social interactions without hurting others. That's why it's common to hear four year olds threaten "You can't come to my birthday party if you don't do it my way." Be aware that kids will follow the example you set of how to use power, so if you're punishing, they may well lord power over others. Don't hesitate to step in when necessary to help kids learn to negotiate with each other. If you fear that your four year old is a bully, I want to reassure you that those are commonly googled words -- you aren't alone. Here's a whole letter of advice for you: Help, My 4 Year Old Is a Bully.
6. Bossiness is often a challenge with preschoolers. All kids both want to get their own way and still have other kids play with them. Try asking questions: “Is it more important to you to play the game your way or to have Catherine play with you?” When another child is bossy, your daughter may need suggestions from you about tactful ways to negotiate with her friends. Help her with scripts: “I really want to play with you, Jasmine, but we’ve been playing dress-up all morning, and I don’t feel like it anymore. What can we do that we both want to do?”