You can cut down on violence toward other children by appealing to your child's growing sociability. Your three-year-old wants to get along with others, to make friends, have fun, and learn with other children. The importance of maintaining friendships with other children should increase your child's willingness to accept suggested solutions to conflict.
If you have given your toddler ample opportunity to play alongside other children, as a preschooler she may shift over to playing with them relatively easily. But even if your child has had little experience playing next to other children, she will almost definitely become interested in playing with others and forming friendships at this age.
Even if your child has had lots of playdates in the past, but especially if she hasn't, she may have some trouble getting along with others. Indeed, until your child appreciates the benefits of playing with others, she will probably put little effort into adopting prosocial behavior. Yet even after she learns to value playing with other children, your child will probably still need to learn how to:
- take turns;
- share; and
- cope with conflict without biting, hitting, kicking, or other violence.
In encouraging your preschooler to share and take turns, try to give her some control (within reasonable limits, of course) over when she hands over the mutually desired toy. You might find it effective to say something like, "You can play with that for a few more minutes, but please let Ryan know as soon as you're done so that he can have a turn, too." You may be surprised to see your child willingly give the toy up after just a minute or two.
Of course, if you give your three-year-old a fair chance to share and she still seems to be hogging the desired toy, then you may need to step in. Suggest that it's time for your preschooler's playmate to have a turn and, if possible, have something else ready for your child to do to induce (that is, bribe) her cooperation.
Three is a great age for learning such social behavior. Your preschooler's new interest in other children—in what they can do, in how they do things, and in what ideas they have—will make it more and more important for her to figure out how to get along with others and to win their approval.
Three-year-olds have a keen sense of justice, fairness, and "right" behavior. If your child does not behave according to social mores—if she grabs toys or treats from other children, for example, or if she knocks down or breaks their projects—other children may (justifiably) be very hard on her. This may be equally hard for you to witness. But instead of rushing to knee-jerk defenses of your child, try to figure out what aspect of your darling's behavior the other children are objecting to. If you agree that it's unacceptable behavior, then work at teaching your preschooler other ways to cope or behave.
While teaching your child socially acceptable behavior, and especially while correcting unacceptable behavior, make sure that she knows that you love her. Try to get your preschooler to see that you want to make it easier for her to get along with others and that selfish or violent behavior will make it harder.