By Alexa Joy Sherman
Whether it’s the holidays or not, one of the simplest ways to build kindness in toddlers and preschoolers is by modeling good behavior both inside and outside of the home. Which sounds obvious, but family members—especially siblings—can often forget the basics of how to treat each other with consideration. “You should expect your children to be as respectful to each other as they are to non-family members,” says Meg Akabas, founder of New York City-based Parenting Solutions and author of 52 Weeks of Parenting Wisdom: Effective Strategies for Raising Happy, Responsible Kids. “During the toddler years, instill in your child that there should be no shoving, hitting, poking, kicking or hurtful language of any kind.”
Surprisingly, how you set up your home can make it easier to build kindness in toddlers and foster sibling cooperation. “Take a room-by-room inventory and look for changes that can make life easier and a bit more peaceable,” advises Lesia Oesterreich, adjunct assistant professor of human development and family studies at Iowa State University in Ames. For instance, in the case of shared spaces, make sure that each child has a shelf or small chest to store personal belongings, Oesterreich advises. “Try to find some comfortable, private place in your home that children can use when they need time alone,” she adds. Getting toys and activities that children of different ages can enjoy together is also a good idea. “Blocks, dress-up clothes, play dough, puppets and art supplies such as paper, paint, glue and stickers are good choices,” Oesterreich notes.