Social Skills Helping Your Three-Year-Old Work Through Social Conflicts

At age three, social conflict can arise when one child takes a toy from another or makes a startling noise. In other words, conflict emerges as kids physically and emotionally "bump into each other" in confusing ways. They may respond to these situations by crying, yelling, throwing, withdrawing or running to an adult. Emotions can run high when kids face social challenges ― both children's emotions and parents' emotions! But there are concrete skills that will help kids learn how to collaborate, cooperate, communicate, negotiate, self-advocate and respect others.

Help your child manage social conflict:

Role Play

Using stuffed animals, act out short scenarios together. For example, one animal could grab a toy away from another animal. Show and talk about how that made the animals feel. Then show them sharing with each other. Use this technique to talk about healthy ways to express their feelings and interact with others.

Teasing Is Tough

Using paper faces, your child can identify emotional reactions to different events and practice appropriate responses to those events, including instances of teasing or bullying.

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Help Them Make Amends

As the Daniel Tiger song reminds us, "Saying I'm sorry is the first step, then 'How can I help?'" If your child has made a choice that has hurt someone else, help them think about how they can make the situation better ― from helping clean up a mess to writing/drawing an apology note.

Working Together

In this activity, your child can work on conflict resolution skills by using two stuffed animals to role play and brainstorm solutions to solve a conflict.

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“Tell a Grown-Up”

From an early age, remind children that there are times they can solve problems on their own, but there are also times when it's very important to get help from a parent, teacher or trusted adult. If they feel unsafe, if someone is hurting them physically or emotionally, if they see someone else being hurt or if they have tried to solve a situation independently but it didn't work, they should "tell an adult."

Talk About Cause and Effect

Help very young children draw a connection between their actions, their feelings and the feelings of others. "You were mad at your brother. He took your toy! Then you hit your brother. Now you are both mad and sad." Then help them imagine how better choices will change those feelings. "Let's play puzzles together. We all love puzzles and feel better when we share."

A Silly Folded Picture

Creating a silly picture with others can help your child develop creativity and cooperative learning skills.

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Help Your Child Manage Emotions with Daniel Tiger

Through imagination, creativity and music, Daniel and his friends learn how to manage big and overwhelming feelings using strategies grounded in the teachings of Mister Rogers.

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Activity Finder: Learn With Your Three-Year-Old

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