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  • Sarina Shirazee


Egocentrism refers to the 2-7 year old child’s inability to see a situation from another person’s point of view. They assume that other people see, hear, and feel exactly the same as they do. It is especially typical for toddlers to think that everything is about them, all of the time. This doesn’t make them rude or selfish – it is just the way the brain develops.⠀⠀ For example, if a child is busy playing, and someone tries to say "hello" to them, but they don't respond, it may seem rude. However, this is typical and developmentally appropriate behaviour for a young child. They are immersed in what they're doing, and in their world, it's not a priority to respond, and they don't have the ability to see the situation from the other person’s point of view (i.e. that they’re waiting for a reply because it's the polite thing to do).⠀⠀ ⠀⠀ Another example is snatching. There’s a lot of grabbing and snatching in the egocentric phase. A teacher or parent might be tempted to say, “You took Tommy's toy, how do you think that makes him feel?” The toddler/preschooler has no idea how the other person feels. They know that they wanted the toy, they took the toy, and now they feel good. They aren’t being mean, they simply don’t have the capacity to understand another viewpoint.⠀⠀ ⠀⠀ Tips for handling egocentric behaviour:⠀⠀ ⠀⠀ • Resist asking “How do you think they feel?” They will not truly know this, especially toddlers. Even if you tell them, their brain is not developmentally ready to understand it. ⠀ • Model the behaviour you want to see in your child. If you'd like your child to greet family members, model this, and when they're developmentally ready, they will genuinely do the same (rather than just saying words you’ve told them to say). ⠀⠀ ⠀⠀ • Help make connections. “Tommy was happy when he had the toy, then you took it, and now he looks sad."⠀⠀ ⠀⠀ • Encourage talking about feelings, and helping children put feelings into words. ⠀⠀ ⠀⠀ • Don't reprimand a child for egocentric behaviour - they can't help it. Empathise (eg “You really want that toy”) before boundary setting. ⠀⠀ • Remember, we can't rush or force behaviour that the brain is not ready for.


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