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How to Raise a Friendly Preschooler

When it comes to bringing up a kid who gets along well with others, what you say is what you get, according to a new study: It found that preschoolers whose moms talk to them frequently about what other people might be thinking or feeling develop better social understanding than their peers. What's more, that effect has a lengthy shelf life, lasting until a child is at least 8 or so (when peer influence takes over).

"You're teaching that other people are important and need to be treated well," says study leader Nicola Yuill, Ph.D., a senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Sussex in Great Britain. Try pointing out, for example, a mom who's smiling or an infant who's wailing, and then asking your kid (discreetly, of course!) why he thinks they're acting that way. He'll also benefit if, while reading stories or watching a movie, you comment on what a character might be thinking or feeling. A good-behavior bonus: Researchers found that the warmer Mom's tone is in these conversations, the more cooperative your kid is likely to be overall.

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