As the school year begins and parents drop their children off to meet their new teacher and classmates, you anticipate a year of learning new skills and meeting new friends.
School acts as your child’s primary social, academic, and overall influencer, helping your child learn and gain confidence in their ability to express themselves in socially appropriate ways.
As you prepare for the school year ahead, don’t forget that the home environment serves as the largest influencer on children’s foundational social skills needed to succeed in academics, make friends, and become good citizens.
Parents should not and cannot expect teachers to offset the negative implications seen in children who aren’t taught basic social skills at home. Being a responsible parent requires time instructing your child how to be polite, express themselves in a socially acceptable manner, and engage others with thoughtfulness and consideration.
Below I have listed six social skills that parents teach best. Children begin learning these skills at the moment of their first step and continue to build upon them for the rest of their life.
- Treating others with kindness and accepting of differences. We are all familiar with the Golden Rule: treat others the way you want to be treated, i.e. showing compassion and kindness toward others. Allow your children to accompany you when welcoming a stranger to the neighborhood. Smile at service people and thank them. Encourage your children to share with others by exemplifying your own moments of sharing.
- Expressing empathy through consideration of others. Embolden your children to help others less fortunate. Do you have an elderly or disabled neighbor unable to frequently leave home? Ask your child to drop off goodies or accompany you when you’re picking up groceries for them. Talk with your child about ways you can help others in need, such as walking their dog, baking cookies, or writing get-well notes.
- Regulating self-control by taking turns and learning you don’t always win. Encourage patience and acceptance by occasionally allowing mom and dad to choose their family board game or bedtime book. Don’t let your children cheat to win; focus on effort over winning. They cannot always be victorious or have their way, and it’s better they learn this at home before heading to school.
- Engaging in teamwork and practicing patience. Teamwork and patience are critical skills for the workforce. To help boost these skills, cook, or create play dough with your kids, allowing them room to execute their part while depending on others to do theirs. Cooking is a process that demands patience, and a team requires you to work together to achieve the desired outcome. Learning to delay gratification teaches your child that some jobs don’t offer immediate gratification and depend on others for success. Learning team pride and spirit is an important lesson for school - and life.
- Taking responsibility and discovering self-help. Productive members of society must accept responsibility for their actions and help themselves. To build personal responsibility skills, teach your children to put away their toys and place dirty clothes in the hamper. Taking ownership over their jacket, lunchbox, and books teaches them to manage and care for their belongings. The more opportunities you offer to your children to help with tasks at home, the more likely they will pitch in to help maintain neatness and organization in their classroom.
- Respecting authority. Children must learn how to properly address authority figures in their lives. Teaching your children to respect and love you is best done by respecting and loving them. Children will grow up respecting and paying attention to authority when parents mentor respect by speaking to other family members with respect and understanding. Practice by addressing others as Ms. or Mr. or Dr. This will set strong boundaries, an important concept for children to learn before they begin school, helping them feel secure and safe with those in charge.
A parent’s work is never complete, and much of your child’s success at school begins in their toddler years. Use every opportunity to teach your child about their world and encourage them to act considerately and respectfully of others.
The more your child practices and feels comfortable expressing their needs and concern for others, the greater confidence they will demonstrate academically and socially.
The most important social skills children need to learn begins in the home with mom and dad.