Effective Ways to Teach Social Skills in Children

May 18, 2018

Children, are undeniably, the future of our world. It is important to view children, not just for who they are, but for who they will be. Well raised children, go on to become well behaved adults. The values you instil in them today, eventually become the foundation for the society they build tomorrow. Such is the ripple effect of the social skills imbibed in them.

Empowering children with essential social skills, won’t just groom them for a better tomorrow, but will also teach them to deal with challenges of childhood.

What are Social Skills?

Social skills unfurl far beyond human interactions and social situations. They encourage positive interactions, while also enabling children to adapt better. Social skills don’t just encourage interactions, they better equip children to handle varied situations and challenges they come across.

Some important social skills include:

  • Effective communication
  • Ownership of actions
  • Listening skills
  • Dealing with uncomfortable situations and people
  • Kindness and empathy
  • Patience
  • Sharing
  • Mutual respect and appreciation
  • Understanding boundaries
  • Appropriate manners
  • Handling emotions

Teaching Social Skills to Children

Lack of social skills in children are often ignored or credited to the innocence and ignorance of age. However, social interactions through the growing years, hold the power of shaping their personalities and minds. It is therefore important to focus on ensuring that children learn essential social skills.

Since most changes and learning begin at home, here’s how parents can adopt effective methods to teach social skills to your children.

1. Lead by Example

Children are keen observers, and often imitate their parents’ actions and behaviours – both consciously and subconsciously. How you interact with others, deal with challenges, and the behaviours that you practice regularly, are closely observed by your children. To teach empathy, empathise with your own child in moments of challenges that he may face, to teach kindness, practice kindness yourself, to teach about personal boundaries, respect your child’s boundaries. Children learn as much from their parents, as they do at school. Being consciously aware of your own social skills, will help you lead the path for your child.

2. Positive Reinforcement

Recognize positive social skills in your child, and make sure to recognize the same. When you recognize and appreciate the good, the child is motivated to practice it further, and also adopt other positive behaviours. Positive reinforcement after an action, strengthens and encourages the behavior further.

3. Talk About Emotions

Recognizing and handling emotions, of others and your own, enable better social connections. While children may be too young to understand on their own, the plethora of emotions they come across, step in and talk to them about emotions. Speak up when their actions hurt, excite, scares, or please you. Be expressive with your emotions and associate those with the right words and meaning, to help your child better understand the nuances and depth of other’s emotions, and how their behavior may affect these emotions. Also encourage your child to recognize their own emotions in different situations, to be able to relate and better judge their comfort and plan of action in situations.

4. Create the Environment

Create the right environment for your child to practice his social skills. If your child is shy, start off by creating an environment where he can make slow progress with one or two peers. To advocate kindness, place him in situations where he’d practice kindness. Tactfully creating the right environment, will enable smooth transitions through gradual progress.

5. Encourage Communication

Encourage your child to communicate and express openly. When a child is confident and comfortable with communicating at home, the same seeps into his interactions outside too. When their views and opinions are openly welcomed and discussed, it instils in them a sense of belonging and confidence, which further helps them in their interactions with others.

6. Do not Force the Child

Never force the child to get out of his comfort zone, and participate in interactions or social settings. This will only have a negative effect on the child and discourage him further, even if he complies at the moment. Instead, stay patient and encourage little changes that will slowly yet eventually bring the desired result.

Few More Tips

  • Be kind to your child during your interactions
  • Use words like “Please” and “Thank You” often, especially with your children
  • Treat people of all social classes with the same respect, and encourage your child to do so too
  • Encourage sharing from a very young age
  • Be mindful of your behavior in social settings, or public, when your child is around
  • Maintain eye contact with your child when speaking to them
  • Practice patience
  • Go the extra mile for your child and others
  • Be expressive with your emotions
  • Create an inclusive environment at home
  • Apologize for your mistakes, and your child will do the same when in a similar situation
  • Be open to any ideas that your child brings forth. Never brush them off.

With the right approach, patience and understanding, parents can bring about impactful changes with regards to a child’s social skills and personality. Remember, what you teach your children today, is what the world will learn of them tomorrow.

- Jiji Tharayil