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How To Teach Your Child Social Skills

How To Teach Your Child Social Skills

If you take a moment to think about the successful people you know

, they are generally self-aware, know how to manage themselves and how to understand and work well with others. Social skills are required to succeed in friendships, school life, community life and eventually working life, so it follows that to be successful in life personally and professionally requires social skills.

There is quite a lot of research that shows that success in ones career is determined by emotional intelligence skills rather than technical or intellectual skills. In particular, Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence, Why It Can Matter More Than IQ (1995) writes that Emotional intelligence is a key indication of success in life. Even though childhood experience is a vital element in shaping Emotional Intelligence, it can also be improved and developed throughout life.

A report from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) found that "personal and social skills - like self control, communication, self confidence and organisation - became 33 times more important" in determining someone's future earnings (The Guardian 6.11.06).

How do we as parents teach our children the social skills they need to prepare them for life? Here are 5 tips to get you started.

1. In order to help your child develop social skills, you need to find time to be social and communicate with your children. Family dinner together is a perfect opportunity. Sitting around the table over a meal gives family members a chance to share their experiences of the day, laugh and joke or support and comfort each other. These daily interactions help children develop skills in listening, taking turns and expressing themselves. I encourage you to ensure the television is turned off during dinner and that children learn to sit at the table until everyone has finished eating or speaking.

2. Children learn by what they see you do, not what you say they should do. Be a model of good social skills for your child. Use every chance you can to show how you try hard to understand others, for example. Illustrate for your child how you pay attention to others feelings, try to understand how they see the world and how you give thought to what you will say to others and how they will "hear it" before you open your mouth to speak to them. When your child displays their emotions by being either upset or happy, notice their feelings and comment or discuss them with your child.

3. Take the time to discuss with your child when they have had some difficulty with another child. Take the "side" of the other child and help your child see the different perspectives and the possible reasons why the other child acted as they did. Encourage your child to tell you what they would like to say to the other child, discuss with them how you would feel if you heard that. Help your child to speak with the other child to resolve the situation for themselves, when they are ready.

4. Traditional board games are an excellent way to teach children social skills. Buy or dust off games like draughts, dominoes, connect four and card games, which are not only terrific fun but they are also stimulating, encourage concentration and involve communication and social interaction skills. Help your child understand that to play enjoyably we all have to respect each other, obey the rules of the game and accept the outcome of the game. If we play lots of games together, there will be lots of chances for each of us to win sometimes, and lose sometimes. Either way we will have had a fun time playing together.

5. Praise your child highly when they get it right. Whether that be understanding the needs of a friend, communicating their own feelings in calm way that allows you to discuss it together or managing their time so they get their homework done before they go out to play, let them know what they have done well and that you are proud of them. Children learn much more effectively from praise and recognition, in contrast to punishment and reproach.

These ideas are just the beginning. I hope you feel encouraged to look for daily opportunities to develop your child's social skills and emotional intelligence by spontaneously using situations as they appear and taking the time to discuss them with your child. You may notice that your own social skills may improve simultaneously.

Not only will you being giving your child skills that will help them succeed in life, I also imagine that you enjoy and appreciate each other more than ever before.

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