May 2023 preschool leader article
Missions Discipleship

Exploring the Social-Emotional Growth of Preschoolers: Getting Along with Others

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”

—John 13:34 (ESV)

Teaching preschoolers is one of the most important tasks we are given. God has chosen us to train and disciple the next generation. The challenge is to view preschoolers through the lens of Scripture.

What does the Bible say about helping preschoolers learn to get along with others? The answer can be found in John 13:34. While preschoolers are in various stages of social development, we can model and teach using Christ’s example for how to treat others.

Consider some of the character traits Jesus modeled for us.

Compassion. A combination of empathy and concern, compassion provides a foundation for genuinely caring for others. “Emily, I see you noticed Jenny was sad. Thank you for giving her a hug.”

Forgiveness. Forgiveness is perhaps one of the most difficult traits to express. Jesus taught of the importance of forgiveness. The complexity of forgiveness often requires that we intervene to train preschoolers in the process of forgiveness. But the result provides a truly teachable moment. “Elliot, I heard you forgive Oliver when he apologized for taking your toy away. Jesus teaches us to forgive others.”

Consideration for others. Preschoolers can learn to recognize that everyone’s feelings are important. “Sam, I noticed you let Graham line up in front of you. Thank you for being considerate.”

Unselfishness. Preschoolers are becoming aware of the world around them. Empathy grows from that awareness. “Levi, thank you for sharing the toy with Dan.”

Helpfulness. Giving of himself is one of Jesus’ greatest traits. Helping others is an important step in becoming aware of those around us. “Rory, I see you working hard to clean up the blocks. Thank you for being so helpful.”

As preschool leaders, sometimes we feel like referees trying to keep the peace in a roomful of self-centered rather than others-centered little humans. However, we are not called to be arbitrators, but rather disciplers. It is important to equip and empower preschoolers as they are learning to get along with others.

How we respond to preschoolers who are struggling to get along with others is important in their development. We positively empower and equip them when we provide choices. Instead of being the judge of who gets the toy, provide preschoolers with choices that will guide them to resolve the conflict themselves. This builds confidence and positive self-esteem as they are empowered and provided an opportunity to grow through interaction.

The social-emotional foundation we lay for preschoolers can have a profound influence on their future development and mental health. Giving them a solid Christ-centered base to build upon equips them to continue to grow with Christ-like compassion for others.

by Teri Ussery

This article first appeared in March-April-May 2023 Mission Friends Leader. Each quarter of Mission Friends Leader, the curriculum piece for preschool missions discipleship, provides practical information on working with preschoolers, achieving effective teaching and learning opportunities, and growth and development of preschoolers.