Egocentricity in Toddlers

Jean Piaget, a famous child development researcher, identified egocentricity to be part of each toddler's cognitive development 2. He named the toddler stage of development the preoperational stage, which is largely characterized by a toddler's way of viewing things only from his own perspective. This theory explains typical toddler behaviors such as wanting things their way and their reluctance to share toys.

Developmental Viewpoint

Developmentally, egocentricity in toddlers is age-appropriate. Egocentricity allows toddlers to focus on themselves as they develop necessary skills such as walking, talking and early learning. Although it may be frustrating when your toddler isn't willing to share or doesn't seem to care that his loud play is disrupting your reading, it is important toddlers focus on themselves during this stage of cognitive development.

Common Behaviors

Typical egocentric behaviors in toddlers include bossiness, the inability to see how others are feeling and difficulty generalizing what they know about themselves to others. A toddler may know her left hand from her right but can't show you right and left on someone else. Toddlers often have a "my way or the highway" approach to playing and sharing. You may also notice toddlers are more likely to play alone rather than engage with another child. This is because they are immersed in their own exploration, which is part of egocentricity.

Encouraging Relationships

Toddlers may get into disagreements or may feel upset when playing with other toddlers because of their egocentric viewpoints. As a parent, you can help encourage socialization by modeling manners and providing your toddler with the words to express how he is feeling. Teach your toddler it is okay to say "I want to build with blocks alone," but it is not okay to hog all the blocks if another child wants to use them. Teach your toddler how to be a kind friend by sharing and taking turns. Your toddler can learn to build positive relationships even at this egocentric stage.

Dealing With Egocentricity

Dealing with egocentric toddlers takes patience and consistence. Set limits with your toddler, letting her know that she is not always the boss. Read books with your toddler and discuss the feelings of the characters, helping her see things from another person's viewpoint. Encourage her to work through her problems and decide what the right behavior may be. Talk about behaviors with your toddler and ask her how she thinks they make others feel.