Image by Greg L. photos via Flickr
It is never too early to start learning how to make friends and be social. Social skills rank very high on our society’s value scale. If you are unable, unwilling, or do not know how to get along with others, you tend to be ostracized or cast aside as unfriendly or “weird.” No matter how smart you are or how good you are at a particular sport, social skills always matter.
I think it is wise for parents of toddlers to look at three main sets of skills when they are assessing their child’s overall achievement. First, academic skills. Reading, writing, and math fall into this category. Second, emotional skills. This entails handling happiness, anxiety and sadness in a healthy way. Finally, social skills. Social skills refer to the way you interact with other people, mainly your peers. All three sets of skills play a major role in your child becoming a functional and socially accepted adult.
I would like to offer some ideas that you may consider when thinking about your child’s social well-being.
What does your child do well? What do they need work on? Be honest with yourself and determine where you would like to see your child socially. Taking turns, keeping your hands to yourself, using the appropriate volume, and solving social problems are all places to take inventory. It is alright if your child needs work on some or all of the areas mentioned.
Look at your own social skills
Modeling social skills for your child is the fastest and best way for them to learn. Showing them the Golden Rule is a great place to start. How do you handle stressful situations, especially in front of your kids? Now is a good time to start monitoring your actions to teach your kids the appropriate way to interact with others. Model the behaviors that you want them to learn.
Use Consistent Vocabulary
Using the same words for the same situations is helpful for your child. Turn taking is always just that, sharing can always be called the same thing. Grouping “like actions” by calling them by the same name will help your child learn the general concepts faster.
Practicing social skills and social situations is very beneficial for both you and your child. This is also an occasion to have some fun! It gives you an opportunity to see how your child reacts in certain situations and allows you to correct their behavior in an unthreatening and casual way. It also allows you to tell them while modeling this behavior for them at the same time. For your child, it is an opportunity to practice skills without the risk of hurting others or getting in trouble.
All kids make mistakes and read situations wrong. We have all been there and made bad choices. Talk about it. If discipline is in order then follow through with that as well. Do not expect your child to know a skill that you have not taught them. Kids do not know that hitting and biting can hurt others until you teach them.
Treat every situation the same
Consistency is the key to teaching your toddler how to behave with others. It does not matter where you are or who is in your present company. If your child makes a bad social call, treat it the same as you would otherwise. If hitting is never ok, then be consistent with that.
If your child handles a situation correctly or comes to you for help, praise them. Tell them what a good job they did. If they know that they did a good job, they are more likely to repeat that act.
Do not embarrass them
Embarrassing a child is never the correct way to teach them. Working with your child (and not against them) is the best way to foster a relationship of trust and understanding, even when they make a mistake. It is important for your child to know that even when they make mistakes, you are there to support and help them.
It is never too early in your child’s life to model and teach them how to act around others. Take the opportunity to mold your child into a person that other people want to be around, work with, and like.
Other great links from around the web:
10 Great tips at Raising Kids Who Care
Thought provoking ideas at Parenting Perspectives