Teaching Social Skills and Effective Communication- It’s never too early

Let’s face it, today parents are afraid to be strict with their children. Even 30 years ago, the adage “children should be seen and not heard” was the rule. Not anymore, not that we are promoting stifling a child’s need to communicate. However, how many times have we seen children interrupt their parents, say rude things to their parents, ignore guests or behave rudely to them, or just simply fail to demonstrate correct courtesy to others? How many times have we heard children use incorrect language or grammar and not be corrected by teachers or parents? How many times have we heard children express ideas without proper sentence structure or organization of thought, perhaps only using gestures and grunting noises? Are we doing these children a disservice by not teaching good communication practices and social skills to children? Is it because parents are afraid of setting guidelines for proper behavior for fear that it will affect their self-esteem? Clearly, the goal of this article is not to promote silent children, it is to promote children who communicate effectively and demonstrate skills which allow them to interact socially with adults and other children.

Too often, parents are afraid to correct their children for fear that they will negatively affect their child’s self-esteem. As a result, they allow children to speak as they wish without gentle guidance towards effective communication. Ultimately the children suffer from this neglect. They do not learn courteous behavior, appropriate use of language or social skills. Not possessing correct social skills, the child’s self-esteem may even suffer (Oswalt, N.p.).  The inability to make friends and feel comfortable with peers can weaken a child’s self-esteem. Such children would possibly be shunned by their peers and respond by either becoming bullies, or by becoming withdrawn, preferring to spend time with indulgent adults.

An excellent list of 10 ways to develop social skills in young children was developed by Community Coordinated Child Care:

  1. Encourage your child to play with other children.  Invite a neighbor, classmate or cousin over to play for a couple of hours.  Keep the visit short and don’t leave the children on their own.  Be available to help children     get started with a game.
  2. Play games with your child so he learns how to share and take turns.
  3. Teach your child the words he needs to express himself.  “Can I play with the puzzle now?”  Remind your child to “use his words” to express what he wants to reduce whining, crying and aggressive behaviors.
  4. Teach compromise to a preschooler by modeling it regularly.  “We’ll play hide and seek now and later we can play Candyland.”  “Since we bought grapes last week for you, today we’ll buy peaches for Louis.”
  5. Preschoolers who hit or use unacceptable language may do so because they see adults around them acting aggressively.  It is important for parents and caregivers to behave appropriately if they expect the children around them to behave.
  6. Your preschooler’s anger may get out of control because he cannot verbalize what he wants or needs.  If another child grabs a toy from Maria, she needs to be taught the words to say, “I am playing with the doll now;  please give it back to me,” instead of hitting or grabbing the toy.
  7. Give your child extra time to speak, allowing him time to collect his thoughts and think about what he can say.
  8. Do not give in to a child who whines or acts aggressively to get what he wants.  Negative behavior is often a call for attention.  Do not react to every negative behavior with attention, yelling, and intense emotions, which only rewards your child with a sense of power, attention and involvement.
  9. Compliment your child when he does the right thing and acts appropriately.
  10. Use distraction to help your child move away from the situation that is causing a problem.

Points 3, 4, 6, 7 & 8 above clearly show how closely linked are communication and social skills. Once a child is trained to ‘use your words’ and negotiate using effective language, both issues are addressed. Even very small children can be trained to say ‘please’ and ‘thank-you’, greet people with ‘hi’ and respond appropriately to adults. Reinforcement about appropriate body language can also be used (see YouTube video above) to help children understand how to effectively communicate with others.

Ultimately, a child who possesses good social skills and communication skills will function better in school, experiencing greater success. Such a child will have the confidence to believe in himself and his ideas and be more creative. All these skills are closely linked to success in life.

References

Goddard, Roger. “Building Social Skills.” Building Blocks for Young Children. Community Coordinated Child Care, n.d. Web. 18 June 2013. http://www.ccccunion.org/PDFsforwebsite/BuildingSocialSkillsBrochure.pdf .

Oswalt, Angela. “Guidelines for Correcting or Disciplining Children – Self Esteem.” Community Counseling Services, Inc.. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 June 2013. http://www.hsccs.org/poc/view_doc.php?type=doc&id=37619&cn=96.

Parker, Wayne. “Child Behavior – Setting Limits for Your Children.” Fatherhood at About.com:  Resources and Support for Fathers. About.com Guide, n.d. Web. 18 June 2013. http://fatherhood.about.com/od/effectivediscipline/a/settinglimits.html

Walker-Thomas, Tammy. “Children Should Be Seen and Not Heard: a Disciplinary Standard for the 21st Century?.” Yahoo Voices. N.p., 14 Mar. 2009. Web. 18 June 2013. http://voices.yahoo.com/children-seen-not-heard-disciplinary-2807835.html.