MEN&WOMEN: Helping your child to succeed

Saturday November 25 2017

One of the best ways you can help your children

One of the best ways you can help your children to succeed is by developing their social skills. ILLUSTRATION| IGAH 

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One of the best ways you can help your children to succeed is by developing their social skills. And that starts while they’re still very young and maybe shy.

Give them plenty of opportunities to play with other children, so they’ll learn to relate to others.

Early on there’ll be lots of arguments and not much give and take. But gradually they’ll learn to solve problems by negotiation and compromise.

Teaching social skills to small children is all about modelling good behaviour. So be helpful, share things, say “please” and show gratitude.

Then they’ll know that’s what they should be doing.

Help them develop self-awareness, empathy and emotional intelligence by discussing their feelings with them, and how their behaviour affects other people: “Did you enjoy that story?” “How d’you think Tom felt when you took his toy?”

Children’s social and emotional skills develop dramatically after the age of two. So that by age seven they should be much more independent, competent and confident.

Speed that up by showing your small children that’s what you expect. And if necessary, by leaning on them pretty hard.

Otherwise they’ll always take the easy option - like leaving their dirty dishes lying around. Provide clear, consistent rules and discipline.

Because children who know what’s expected, and what happens when rules are broken, develop good self-control. 

Encourage them to see how good it feels to acquire new skills, But also that it takes lots of practice to master them.

Children believe in instant gratification! So explain to them that lots of hard work lies behind every seemingly effortless success.

They also need to learn to make good decisions. And that starts with allowing younger children to choose simple alternatives in their clothes or food.

Your children’s social world becomes much larger once they start school. They’ll need to get on well with classmates and teachers, to work in groups and know how to ask for help when they need it. So model these skills in them.

Encourage them to think about other people’s feelings and show them what good relationships look like.

Making friends is also important at school. And learning that skill really well will make a big difference to their success at school and as adults.

Small children don’t put much thought into friendship. They just play with whoever’s around. But once they’re in school, they start actively deciding who they want to be friends with. They generally choose friends who’re outgoing, kind, and accommodating. And avoid anyone who’s shy, pushy or aggressive.

So help your children learn how to talk to other children. To be kind, cooperative and approachable. If one of them only seems interested in one best friend, persuade them to hang out with a few others as well. Help them cope with the inevitable arguments, and with the occasional hurtful friend. And as their social skills improve, you’ll see their lives really start to bloom.