1. What is Theory of Mind?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.
2. What Really is Popularity?It's pretty universal that everyone wants to be liked and have friends. This is pretty obvious with preschoolers and is why I write so much about helping kiddos improve their play and social skills. In the context of the research I'm using for this post, "popularity" means peer acceptance and like-ability. Remove that idea of popularity as good-looking jocks that mock freshman during gym. Popularity is the normal, nice sophomore that has a group of friends at lunch and that is liked by his peers. 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. Phew! So what's the connection between popularity and theory of mind?
According to 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.
How does Theory of Mind make your child popular?Remember how Theory of Mind is like social mind-reading? This social mind-reading helps your child understand others' thoughts, have better communication skills and be aware and considerate of others' emotions.
Skills from Theory of Mind
- Good Communication
- Interpersonal Sensitivity
Why is Popularity & Peer Acceptance Important for Your Preschooler?Your child needs to develop Theory of Mind to have foundational social skills like good communication and interpersonal sensitivity. These social skills fundamentals significantly 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.
Peer Acceptance + Positive Social Interactions = Better Social SkillsHere'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, 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.
Thank you so much for reading! Share your thoughts in the comments below!
(P.S. This post may contain affiliate links 'cause momma needs to bring home the bacon.)Citation 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.