Developing Strong Social Skills is Key to a Child’s Development
By Amanda Grossman-Scott
I remember taking my two sons to a birthday party at a park when they were four and six years old. The oldest boy bounded out of the car as soon as we arrived- forgetting the gift he’d wrapped, leaving the car door wide open and greeting the other children immediately. My younger son was much more hesitant. “Who is here that I know?” He asked. “If I don’t know anyone, can I just get a cupcake and sit in the car?” One son is outgoing (and easily distracted!) and the other son approaches situations more cautiously and is naturally more shy (and loves cake!). This often left me bewildered, as I had to find a way to teach social skills to two kids with very different and distinct personalities.
For any parent who has more than one child, it’s quickly discovered that each child comes with his or her own personality. Some kids are born ready to take on the world and some are more cautious. Some kids trust people immediately and some need to “warm up.” As parents, it’s our job to help our children realize their strengths and how they can best be used to develop the social skills necessary to grow.
Strong social skills give kids an advantage.
There is no question that children who have good social skills will have advantages in life. Children who possess good social tools not only have the benefit of positive relationships, they have a better self-image and, in general, are much more resilient as they face life’s challenges. Luckily, friend-making, assertiveness, and confidence are things that can be taught.
Great social skills can be taught.
Environment can play a huge role in helping a child practice using her social tools because social skills are, of course, best learned in a social environment.
With parental help, children can gain tools to use in social settings and discover within themselves their social strengths, what makes them great friends, and how to choose friends wisely.
One aspect of social skills is accountability. I like to play a little game with my children. I ask them to name a responsibility they have. Then I ask them to list consequences that might happen if they don’t fulfill their responsibility. For example, my son is responsible for feeding our dog. One consequence of not feeding her might be she is hungry. If he continues to not feed her, she could die. When our children are tasked with something, others are counting on them to complete that task. Running through the “what ifs” of not completing the task is a useful activity to show our kids the importance of being accountable.
What are the most important social skills?
In our new book, 30 Days to a Stronger Child, we focus on six areas that will help create a socially stronger, more capable child. For each area, there are discussion questions, challenges and activities to reinforce each concept.
- Accountability – Every child is accountable for using the opportunities they are given wisely.
- Friendship – The goal of friendship is not to have many friends, but instead to have a few good friends.
- Respect – Showing respect for others means we listen to other people and treat them the way we want to be treated, even when we disagree. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect and everyone wants to be liked.
- Assertiveness – Being assertive in a positive way is a skill that will benefit every child throughout their lifetime.
- Leadership – Leaders are able to communicate their needs and are willing to listen to others’ needs as well. Some children may have the natural inclination to lead, but any child can learn to lead!
- Boundaries – Not all people are trustworthy, and it’s important for children to understand that there are different levels of trust among the people we know.
Using this book, parents can teach children tools to use in social settings and discover within themselves their social strengths, what makes them great friends, how to choose friends wisely, and to gain confidence in those skills!
See our new book 30 Days to a Stronger Child to find ideas for teaching this concept and learn ways and activities to help your child be stronger!
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Amanda Grossman-Scott is Board Vice president and Head Writer for Educate and Empower Kids. She has written for various magazines, newspapers and blogs and has been active in the journalism industry intermittently for the last 15 years. She studied Journalism and Communications. Amanda is from Lancaster, Pennsylvania and now lives with her husband and four children in San Antonio, Texas.