Raising a Sympathetic Child

Tackling Those Tricky Feelings

Decoding Emotions

Some feelings are easier than others to explain to 2- and 3-year-olds. "They relate to 'happy' or 'mad' because those are visual and concrete," says Dr. Kamboukos. "It's harder to teach a toddler about subtle feelings, like being disappointed or embarrassed."

In these cases, how you respond to your child's behavior is especially important. For example, if your child points at a woman in a wheelchair, use it as an opportunity to teach him about emotions. Calmly explain that though a wheelchair looks unusual to him, the woman might feel embarrassed if people stare at her. "Children grasp the meaning of a word when they hear it again and again," says Gurian. Remember: Your toddler won't know he's being unkind unless you tell him.

Then, help your child figure out what he doesn't understand or may be afraid of: "The lady needs a wheelchair because it's hard for her to walk." Try to find a connection to your child's life: "We use your stroller when it's hard for you to walk."

Words to Live By

Help your child understand his emotions with these books.

When Sophie Gets Angry -- Really, Really Angry..., by Molly Bang. Sophie tries to stay calm when her sister wants to share a toy.

Hands Are Not for Hitting, by Martine Agassi. Kids learn peaceful ways to deal with their pals.

Mama, Do You Love Me? by Barbara Joosse. A little girl tests her mother's love.

Maisy Loves You, by Lucy Cousins. Maisy shows her friends how much she cares through sweet gestures and gifts.

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