R was 15 months old at the time of this visit
As we strolled into the dimly lit animal shelter, R spotted a striped cat lounging in its bed and was immediately drawn to it. She meowed at it as her face and hands were pressed up against the glass divider between the reception area and cat room. This was her first visit to the shelter, but not her first experience with cats. As the staff unlocked the door to the cat room, R gingerly trotted by my side. She promptly slipped in beside the striped cat, which we learned was called Linx, and began stroking his soft fur while quietly whispering “nice”. Her memory of interactions with other animals had served her well, as she knew to be nice to her new found friend and to stroke him gently.
On a daily basis, I take R on outings either with friends and family or on our own in order to promote healthy emotional development as she explores and tries new things and learns to take risks. These outings also help with R’s social development as she learns to make friends and get along with others. During play with other children, I encourage R to practice sharing and taking turns and to help bring children who are standing on the sidelines into the play scenarios.
During the outings, I provide R with opportunities to learn appropriate social etiquette while we initially watch the other children playing and interacting before she enters into play. I also model appropriate behaviors with a special interest in teaching kindness. I use the words nice and gentle to guide her as she engages with new people and new things. I show her how to cleanup after herself and help her to do the same.
As is the case with learning other skills, I often use the “I do, We do, You do” method to teach R about being kind. I first model the behavior, we then practice doing it together and then I leave her to do it on her own.
Along with teaching kind actions, I also teach R about using kind words. When she asks for something from me and is doing so in an impatient and whiny manner, I repeat her question back to her in a calm voice, inserting the word please into the question. I then ask her to use the language I have provided, and when she does so, I give her what it is that she has asked for.
It won’t take just a day to show R what it means to be kind; it will be a life-long process of learning and self-discovery. As she experiences what it means to be kind, I want her to learn the importance of also being kind to herself.
This piece was originally posted on StrongTots as part of the Kinder by the Child project.
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