Perspective taking skills are essential to a child’s ability to act with kindness and generosity. Though these skills take time to develop, parents can support them in everyday ways.
Research shows that kids and adults who are kind are also more successful. Kindness is associated with many benefits for the person doing the act of kindness, not just the person receiving it.
Whenever you tell a “white lie”(we all do it) in front of your child, try and provide an explanation of other peoples’ feelings or why you may lie to protect someone’s feelings.
Leaving siblings to work conflicts out on their own isn’t always the best advice. Neither is being the referee in all of their arguments. Try being the mediator and offering your children the chance to calm down, explain how they feel and come to a compromise. Though it takes more of your time, it teaches them about conflict resolution for the future.
Be a mentor around screen use. Use, engage, and learn from your children’s screen time.
Have conversations about things you may not think you need or should have conversations about.
Don’t be afraid to tell your kids that you don’t have all the answers. Use your uncertainty to teach them about ways to find out what you need to know and grow at any age.
Label your young child’s feelings. Are they cold, hungry, tired, frustrated? Helping them acknowledge and name feelings, starting from birth, can help your infant develop perspective taking skills as they grow!
Narrate your own feelings, and those of others. Is grandma excited to see them? Is a friend sad when they fall down? Daddy joyful at bath time? Talking about feelings everywhere you go builds perspective taking skills in context.
Shared book reading is an incredible way to promote discussions around the thoughts and feelings of others. Try asking your child how a character feels and how they can tell!
Make a book of feelings faces! What does it look like to be sad, happy, surprised, angry or scared? Help your child to recognize feelings in their face and in other faces too.
Play pretend. Trying on what it is like to be someone else is one of the best ways to develop perspective taking skills. Encourage your child to play pretend whenever you can.
Find opportunities to praise your toddlers’ effort, not achievements. Notice how hard they are trying, what techniques they are using, and how they are making new connections as they struggle with a task.
Try to make it clear to your child that trying new things isn’t always easy. Offer plenty of breaks when things get frustrating and talk about what new strategy you can try next time.
Try to avoid jumping in and rescuing your child every time they are struggling with a task. Instead, give them a moment to figure out what they may try next or offer a suggestion. Even asking “would you like some help with a new idea” is a great way to promote perseverance.
Try breaking a hard task into pieces. By turning something hard into a series of smaller steps, your young child will build confidence to try new things.
Use the word “yet” whenever your child says they can’t do something. Help to communicate that success is earned through hard work!
Handle sibling conflicts by being the mediator, not the judge. Leaving kids to work it out alone can lead to the dominate child sharpening their aggressive tactics. At the the same time, playing referee can lead to preferential treatment. Instead, when you act as an impartial mediator everyone can feel heard, they can learn to listen to perspectives and you teach important conflict resolution skills for the future.
Have conversations about everything and anything. Your children are listening and learning your values, thoughts, and feelings, even if you are struggling to communicate them!
Tweens and Teens:
Help your tween/teen to seek out new challenges, and praise them for their effort and determination. Avoid commenting on natural ability or talent, and focus on the gains that come from hard work.
Take an inventory of what your child is doing on screens. Acknowledge that all screen-use is not the same, and help to talk through what the benefits of certain screen-time may be.
When you can’t find an entry point into communication with your child, try asking about their screen-use. “Tell me what is so fun."
Be a mentor around screen use. Research shows that parents can play an important role in helping children to develop healthy habits around screens, reducing cyber bullying and pornography use. Avoiding or forbidding all screens can leave children without the information they need to use them in a safe and constructive way.
Talk about the awkward! Even when you stumble or express your uncertainty, your children are learning. Having regular conversations (even without a big response) creates an openness in your relationship and makes space for your tween and teen to follow-up if they need to.