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Improving Children's Social Skills

By Edited Sep 9, 2015 5 9

Teaching Social Skills to Children

Social Skills for Kids

Clearly a child entering school needs a set of skills for a jump-start on success.  Well-meaning, involved parents show awareness of these skills by teaching their children a plethora of readiness skills;  recite and recognize the alphabet, recognize numerals along with  counting, recognize and write their name, hold scissors, pencils, and crayons correctly, and some fine motor skills such as hopping, skipping, and even tying shoelaces.  The list of academic and 

Happy Hands
fine motor skills goes on.  As a former kindergarten and first grade teacher, I thank goodness for the parents and preschool teachers dedicated to providing this head start for the precious little ones in their hands.  Learning programs for kids abound on the academic front but not so many exist for building crucial social skills. What about social skills?  Few setbacks can hamper a child's happiness,  success in school and in  life more than a lack of social skills.  

What Are Social Skills for Kids?

Consider academic intelligence knowledge of all those skills listed above and more.  Social intelligence, however, involves everything associated with a child's ability to interact and respond in social situations.  Complicated describes these skills when one ponders social intelligence.  Think of the social skills needed by an adult in an adult work situation.  Does not that adult need to understand the concept of moods, temperament, motivations and wants of other people to truly be a team player?  Wow, that is a lot of social thought process needed.

Children in their early years must develop the same set of skills at a tender, young age.  The youngest toddler exhibits mood, temperament, motivation, and certainly desire as one observes them snatch a wanted toy from the tyke next to them.  So, from an early age, children must learn social skills and grow in social intellect.  All of a sudden, just teaching baby to walk, talk, and sing the alphabet song sounds like an easier task, right?  Have no fear.  The human mind at a young age can learn these skills.

Consequences of Teaching or Not Teaching  Social Skills to Children

Beliefs vary on how much personality and temperament are innate and established at birth.  That debate put aside, specific social skills for kids make for a happy and successful child in school and life.  A child fortunate enough to own these skills exhibits notable characteristics; ability to share with other children, empathy and understanding to others' feelings,  enjoyment playing in group settings, and an ability to put their own thoughts aside for a minute and listen to others.  Now, as a primary teacher, children with that skill set glowed with possibilities on the first day of school.  Oh yes, saying and writing the alphabet was important, but the possibilities for teaching any academic skill to the student who possessed strong social skills were seemingly limitless.

To the contrary, the child without these skills, no matter the academic skills, struggled.  School is a social situation no matter the angle viewed.  A child who could not share found learning center time a miserable experience.  He or she could not enjoy building in the block center for the stress of unwillingness to share.  The little one who did not understand moods of others just didn't know when to leave the child next to them alone as he or she experienced a

Hands Stacked
bad day.  A lack of the ability to see importance in putting his or her own thoughts aside while the teacher talked or read a story to the class, landed that child in trouble.  Social skills are crucial.

Social Skills Learning Programs for Kids 

So, how can a parent or caretaker ready their child with social skills?  Does a need exist to buy a social skills learning program?  Oh, a quick search online will show programs that do so, but mainly needed is a role model.   That role modeling is crucial from preschool years forward.  Consider teaching manners and etiquette as a subset of skills but definitely in the social category in which seeing how to model is a bit easier.  How would one teach manners through modeling?

Teaching Social Skills to Children:  The Etiquette Role Model

  1. Always says please, thank you, I'm sorry, and excuse me to the child when appropriate.  The child who sees and hears this behavior of an adult towards them and other adults easily owns the habit of politeness. Of course that adult provides positive reinforcement with praise when the child models that behavior back. 
  2. Exhibits good table manners of making certain of elbows staying off the table, chewing with the mouth closed, etc.  Again, praise, praise, praise.  
  3. Holds the door for others, exhibits polite driving behaviours, etc. 

A new trend in major cities is the offering of learning programs for kids specifically to teach etiquette. These etiquette skills are a bit easier noticed than other social intelligence skills, but all qualify as modeling opportunities. Ponder these other skills and how to model them.

Teaching Social Skills to Children:  Modeling Understanding of Mood

Tell a child when you notice they are in a certain mood so they begin to recognize such.  Help them see when it is best to leave a brother or sister alone because they just "aren't in the mood" at that moment.  Show them that parents sometimes leave a another person alone or engage them due to mood. Adults underestimate children's capabilities in recognizing such behaviors. 

Teaching Social Skills to Children: Modeling Understanding of Temperament

If the child has a friend with a certain temperament, such as shyness, talk with the child about that.  Model for them with that friend how to engage that other child and not ignoring them.  Sometimes leaving the angry child alone is a good idea.  Do the same with adult friends so that children see that skill in action.  Bring a person not participating in a conversation into the group. One need not tell the child they are learning a skill.  It becomes second nature.  

Teaching Social Skills to Children:  Modeling Understanding of Desires

Everyone has desires.  The shopper only has to glance around the grocery store to see the child throwing a tantrum because of the candy bar desired not landing in the basket of items the mom is buying.  Use that situation as a teachable moment to verbalize proper and non-appropriate behaviour when wants are not granted.  Also, consider making it known to a child when the adult wants something but is not purchasing it or satisfying that want immediately.  Maybe the item costs too much or time to go buy the item is short.  Model the fact of everyone wanting something not available to them and how to handle the situation.  All too often, children never see or realize an adult behaving well when they do not get what they want.  Powerful lessons are at hand!

Enjoy thinking of creative ways to teach academic and social skills to children.  To help in that attempt, books published with stories spotlighting the skills are available.  Social skills learning programs for kids both via live and on a computer exist as well.  Often teaching special needs children social skills grab the spotlight.  Any primary teacher attest to the fact that all children need these skills and instruction starts at birth.  The child's happiness indeed depend on it.  Happy modeling!



Jan 24, 2012 1:14am
I really loved reading your write up. Now-a-days children are lacking somewhere in social front. Off-course they doesn't lack in table culture but somewhere they miss social cultures like respecting seniors and elders. Dedicating time o social front will not count. They really need to be socially active. Hope your article will spread awareness.
Thanks Infobarrel for making it a feature article.
Jan 24, 2012 9:31am
Excellent tips! Sometimes parents are not sure how to go about this, so kids grow up losing out on the skills they need to be successful.
Jan 24, 2012 3:11pm
Having a good role model in their lives will really help. Kids tend not to develop good social skills when they are left in front of a TV all day. They will learn good social skills by interacting and engaging with others who have those skills. Like produces like.
Jan 24, 2012 8:54pm
An important subject, "Improving Children's Social Skills." Excellent tips for parents. Congratulations on the Featured Article - it is well deserved!
Jan 25, 2012 8:50pm
We've been lucky as our family has enough older sibilings, four of them, for the two-year-old to gain some needed social skills. However, I highly recommend involving children in storytimes and, if affordable, preschools in order to really get an inkling of the items mentioned in the article.
Jan 26, 2012 2:49am
Great tips! Thanks!
Jan 26, 2012 7:04pm
Great to see an article on this subject. Apparently children in Finland do not start school until the age of seven - and the Finnish education system is considered among the best in the world, if not the best. I wonder if this is because the late start on academic learning prioritises the kind of social skills dealt with in this article during the earliest years of a child's life, so that, by the age of seven, they are truly ready to get the best out of the school experience? Conversely, an unhappy and unsettling start at school during those early years can leave children hating school by the age of seven, before they have any real understanding of what education has to offer them. That's a great shame, and even the best teachers struggle to overcome it.
Jan 27, 2012 11:46pm
My little 4year old daughter will love these --- its social skills simplified for kids. As a parent I now have a duty to teach her. Thanks.
Jul 5, 2012 10:27am
Wow! I think this is a great resource tool for parents, good article. I love Early Ed!

I hope your readers also understand that in able for their child to see other children's or adult's "point of views" or really get a full understanding of social behavior the child as to be at least over six years old. Children under the age of 5 can not cognitively put themselves in another persons shoes and fully understand what that person is seeing or how they are feeling.Children during this stage and age are very egocentric and this is due to certain parts of the brain not developed yet. It is a proven scientific fact. Studies show by age 7 years they have a better awareness. Sounds like Finland know there stuff! lol

Also, a child under the age of three years old may be able to say sorry when prompted but they do not cognitively understand a full sense of sympathy towards another person.

This being said, they do not understand the difference between an "accident" and "on purpose" situations. I would love to do an article on this! I feel it is very important for a parent to understand the developmental aspect of the early years. Sometimes parents can have too many expectations and not enough education. I admit to being one of those parents at times!
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