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 Handsfine 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 Stackedbad 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!