Theory of Mind (ToM) is the ability to recognize others’ perspectives and how this affects their behavior. ToM is essentially ‘social understanding’ and is a skill that significantly develops between the ages of 3-5. Kiddos do learn a lot during the preschool years, but ToM is something you should pay extra special attention to because it affects a lot more than you suspect.
According to intense research, Theory of Mind is a HUGE factor in peer acceptance and popularity. So if you want your child to have a good relationship with their peers, make sure they develop Theory of Mind.
(Popularity in preschool pretty much means that your child’s classmates view your child in a positive light and will interact and play with your child.)
How does Theory of Mind make your child popular?
Remember how Theory of Mind is like social mind-reading? This mind-reading helps your child to understand others’ thoughts, have better communication skills and be aware and considerate of others’ emotions. All of these factors come together to make your child “well liked” and “highly regarded by peers” aka popular.
Theory of Mind = good communication, interpersonal sensitivity & prosociability
Really, it all makes sense. You’ll have better social relationships if you are aware and considerate of others’ thoughts and emotions. So without ToM, it would be really difficult to develop friendships and have good social relationships.
Why peer acceptance and popularity matter
Your child needs to develop Theory of Mind to have foundational social skills and these foundational social skills greatly increase your child’s odds of popularity and peer acceptance. But why does your child really need acceptance from peers?
Peer acceptance is so critical because when your child is acceptance by peers, your child is much more likely to have positive interactions and social experiences. The more positive peer interactions your child has, the more opportunities your child has to develop social skills. Essentially, you need social skills to get your foot in the door to develop better social skills.
Here’s the catch-22 that breaks my heart: the children with poor social skills tend to have negative interactions or be rejected by their peers so they have fewer opportunities to develop social skills. You need social skills to have opportunities to develop social skills.
This unfortunate scenario reminds me of so many job advertisements I’ve seen. You know the ones that say “Must have 5 years experience in ____” but seriously… if everyone has to have 5 years of experience then how does anyone ever initially get the job?!
Now that you know why Theory of Mind is so important for your child’s social success on the playground, let’s get into how you can help your child.
For activities to develop your child’s Theory of Mind, we’ve got you covered with ideas and strategies in this post. We also have strategies and activities to help your child develop other important social skills here. (My favorite post is Top Playground Fail because it’s such an intuitive idea and simple concept that, as adults, we rarely consider).
Thank you so much for reading! Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Slaughter, V., Imuta, K., Peterson, C. C., & Henry, J. D. (2015). Meta-analysis of theory of mind and peer popularity in the preschool and early school years. Child Development, 86(4), 1159-1174.