Preschool Parenting Class: Helping Our Kids Play Well with Others

As parents, we all think that our kids are amazing. However, I bet you can all think of a moment that your child had a meltdown at a playgroup or was less than charming in a moment you really needed them to behave. What can we do to encourage good behavior with other people? This month’s online parenting class is on playing well with others.

I dare you to think of a single playgroup you have been to when a child hasn’t come away crying. You can’t do it. Kids at this age, or any age for that matter, are just going to have disagreements and have trouble getting along. I can think of one time in particular that I had to leave a playgroup early with my child because the kids were arguing over toys more than they were playing. They just could not seem to get along no matter what we did. As a parent, these moments are mortifying. We see and know how good our kids can be at times and it is so frustrating to see them behaving badly with other children. We have all been there. However, don’t cancel all future playdates and rip up the preschool application. It is crucial for kids to have interaction with others. Studies have shown that social skills are a very important part of growing up. These days children are socialized very early in daycare or preschool. Playdates have become the norm in our society.

As parents, it is our job to teach our children how to interact with others. Children are naturally ego-centric. They are the center of their own little world. The preschool age is especially difficult because they haven’t yet learned what is appropriate behavior. Children this age have trouble playing well with others. By the age of two, it is common for children to act selfishly and to view the world exclusively through their own needs. Toddlers have very little self control or awareness of the feelings of others or the consequences of their actions towards others. At this age it is more common to see children playing alongside each other instead of truly interacting with each other. This is also the stage that acting out physically is normal. Pushing, hitting and snatching items from each other, usually followed by a scream or cry seems to be par for the course. Toddlers will respond with physical acts without realizing that they are hurting their friends. By the age of three, you will see more instances of playing together and pretend play. You will also get a more vocal reaction. This is the point that hurtful words will become common and you may have to diffuse arguments between kids. Their personalities are developed and it is easy to spot the natural leaders and the followers.

So how can parents help their children develop healthy social skills? Children need all sorts of play. They need play with parents, independent play and play with others. Kids must learn to interact with others in a healthy, positive and productive manner. Studies have shown that social development builds off of a child’s primary relationship, that being their parent or guardian. Children learn from what they are immersed in. They will model the type of behavior that they are most familiar with and see often. Loving, sensitive parents can be ideal social tutors. Kids will learn crucial skills just from playing with their parents. Research suggests that children whose parents frequently play with them have more advanced social skills and get along better with their peers. While playing you can model the kinds of behaviors you want them to show. Modeling positive social skills includes showing confidence when we relate to others: being friendly to strangers, offering to help others and treating others with respect. Teach your child that people are important. Don’t let them, intentionally or not, disrespect or belittle another person. Playing alongside your child also allows you to monitor how they play. You can get a sense of what their strengths and weaknesses are. You may realize that your child can tend to be a little bossy or naturally waits for others to initiate play. Knowing this about your child can help you to teach them what they can do to make social situations easier for them.

Be watching for our next parent email. We will give some usable examples of play situations you can implement at home and ways to diffuse those awkward social moments!