There is a tendency to assume that toddlers learn social skills by playing with one another in social settings. This is, however, only part of the process. In fact, the journey begins a long time before a child gets to interact with peers. The first social skills children learn are acquired by watching the adults around them and the role modeling of what they see. That is why parenting is about so much more than seeing to the physical needs of a child. Prior to a child stepping into a classroom, they should have been taught several social skills.
Once children get into a classroom setting, they need to sharpen their social skills through their interactions with their teacher and their classmates. Preschool teachers need to teach social skills through play and fun. They can use stories, songs, puppets, and games to teach kids to interact with others. This prepares them to be productive members of society later in life.These are some of the important social skills parents should focus on, and preschool teachers will reinforce.
1. Expressing emotions
It’s vital that as soon as possible children learn to put a name to what they are feeling. It helps them to verbally express their feelings instead of turning to other methods. For example, a child should learn to verbalize that he is angry or frustrated without resorting to throwing things around or hitting other children. Children must learn how to process the emotions they are feeling appropriately. Once they can put a name to the emotion, they can be taught how to cope with what they are feeling. These are skills that are much-needed in adulthood.
At different stages, children need to be able to communicate at appropriate levels. For example, between 2-3 years old, a child must make eye contact with the person speaking to them. Toddlers often avoid contact as a means of control. They need to learn early on that eye contact is polite and indicates that they are listening.They should be able to greet others and know how to take turns talking. The complexities advance as they get older. By age 5-6 years old, a child should know how to say please, thank you, and sorry. This takes a lot of children a long time before it’s automatic. Positive role modeling is critical at this stage.
Listening skills are vital as without them, children cannot learn. Teaching your child listening skills is important. They are born with some listening skills, but they need to be enhanced. One of the easiest ways to teach listening skills is to play a broken telephone or variants thereof. Whisper a word or phrase into your child’s ear and let them repeat it back. It will take a while, but you’ll get to a stage where you can get your child to listen to and repeat 3-4 sentences. Allowing children to engage in discussions with groups of their peers is also a way of stimulating listening skills and teaching them the value of taking turns. It’s as simple as putting them in a circle and asking them to talk about their weekend. Some children will speak with ease, while others will feel shy. The extroverts need to learn to give the introverts a turn. And the introverts need to learn to come out of their shells enough to participate.
4. Group work
The earlier children learn to function in a group, the better they will behave in group settings when they are older. While working with very small children, the types of activities to do will focus on play. Putting children into groups to play with toys such as blocks teaches them how to interact with others. At first, it may seem that they are playing alongside each other and not with each other. But they are absorbing the things going on around them all the time and processing them. Role modeling the correct behavior is essential, as it allows children to learn what is appropriate. Some children struggle with this more than others but will learn with loving, patient guidance.
Parents of an only child have an additional responsibility in this regard. They must seek out opportunities to involve their child in socializing groups so that their children get exposure to children of their own age. In a classroom setting, children should complete group work tasks. They will learn that each group member has a job and that all the jobs need to be done to complete the task.
Children need to learn compassion for others from an early age. It prepares them for relationships they will have when they are older. They need to look at someone who has fallen with sympathy and try to help them. Children need to know that laughing when someone is in pain or feeling sad is unacceptable. This is also the time that they need to learn to treat animals with a caring approach.
Conflict management is an important part of this social skill. When children learn how to deal with conflict constructively, they will be able to do so when they are adults. Teach children that conflict is normal, provided it is dealt with appropriately. Some good tips for teaching children conflict management provide a great framework from which to work. Children should have some basic conflict resolution skills and know when to get an adult involved to help.