The Ying and Yang of Teaching Social Skills to Toddlers

In our books and products, we have incorporated a set of values that we believe are important for parents to teach their toddlers. Each of the Five Enchanted Mermaids has a special skill that exemplifies these values. Zari is independent, Emily is brave, Anna is kind, Jenny is confident and Sofia is truthful. Our books tell stories that illustrate these values and provide a fun, entertaining way to teach your child.

Thus, in “You Can Do It”, Emily helps Otto overcome his frustration with some great advice based on her skill of courage and the other mermaids add their advice, too.

At the toddler age, keeping it simple is probably smart. Describing what is good behavior and what is bad behavior can be straightforward and usually works well. This is easy to teach and easy for the toddler to learn.

However, as the toddler develops, there will come a time when you need to explain the gray areas between good and bad. While being independent is good, if taken to extremes, it can go beyond rational behavior and create problems. Your toddler might think she needs to be independent so goes off on her own and gets lost.

Finding the child may be fairly easy but how do you then instruct her? Do you say “being independent is wrong”? How do you explain the gradients where too little independence and too much independence are both wrong?

Even more poignant is the value of honesty. Ordinarily, we would say not to lie – always tell the truth. But if grandma has a new hat that truly does not suit her and asks what we think of it, we have a dilemma. Are we truthful and hurt her feelings or do we tell a “white lie” or “fib”?

Grandma might be down to earth and appreciate an honest answer or she may be fishing for a compliment and an honest answer might be offensive. From what we know about Grandma, we can more readily determine the better answer. In this case, the best answer might be to tell Grandma “it looks very comfortable”.

Deciding how best to answer the question requires skill, empathy and knowledge of the person. It can be difficult to find in an adult and even more so in a toddler.

Some say, this is beyond the toddler and you should not even attempt to teach them the ambiguities that exist in the real world until they are much older. However, your toddler might just find themselves in a situation where they are conflicted in a value they hold, which, if strictly applied, might be harmful.

My recommendation is that you keep an eye open for a situation where values are in conflict and then use it as a teaching opportunity to help the child develop skills to find the best solution.

In parenting, things are not always black and white. Nor are they simple!

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