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Why Social Skills Matter

Dear Elizabeth,
Iíve noticed that my 4-year-old has trouble getting along with other kids at her preschool. Sheís bossy & always wants things her way. Will she outgrow this?
Winfield Johnston
Elizabeth's Tips
Elizabeth Sanchez
Elizabeth Sanchez
  • Arrange opportunities for play
  • Model social behavior
  • Guide kids in learning social skills
  • Play with kids
Expert Advice
Mayra Prado
Mayra Prado
Marriage & family therapist
Social skills are our ability to get along with others. We begin learning this when we are very young. It includes things such as cooperation, good communication, problem solving and empathy. The child needs to go through an adjustment from considering only his own wants and feelings to considering those of others. Sharing and taking turn are things for a young child to learn, and it is not easy for them.

The Importance of Social Skills
Social skills are important throughout life. There is great emotional pain involved in a lack of social acceptance, not just for children. However, it is in childhood that these skills begin and start to give us a sense of who we are in the world. Our self-esteem will be affected positively or negatively by how we are able to interact with others. Children who are not liked often behave aggressively because of the hurt they are feeling and because they don't know an appropriate way to express it and resolve the conflict.

By the time a child enters Kindergarten, he or she should have some skills in sharing, taking turns, communication skills and know some problem solving skills. They may still need to master all these and may only have rudimentary knowledge of them but at least the seeds must have been planted. Of course all this will be easier if the child has a healthy self-esteem.

Provide Social Opportunities
Play dates can be a good way of providing the opportunity for children to get together and learn social skills. They can be particularly important for the child who is isolated or having difficulty making friends. The adult has the opportunity of watching the interaction and of guiding it to a better result. Also, stronger relationships outside of the school setting translate into stronger relationships in the school.

Playing with parents and providers teaches children many of these things. Rules of appropriate behavior are modeled by treating the child with respect and love as well as by teaching, through behavior, concepts of taking turn in play, in winning, in choosing which game to play.

Adults can guide children to learn social skills by giving them the language they need to communicate. Social communication is mostly verbal and a child needs to learn how to communicate his needs in a positive way. He also needs to learn how to listen to other children's needs. Communication is not just talking but, equally important, listening. Also, a child who can use his words effectively feels less of a need to act out his emotions or needs through poor behavior.

Confidence is key to social interaction. By building self-confidence in a child we are also helping him deal with his environment. When a child is shy the parents can provide safe social environments where the child's confidence can grow. At times this may involve playing with kinder or younger children as well as helping out adults. Giving him choices can also increase the sense of mastery.
Child Care Provider Comments
Penny Salazar
Penny Salazar
Mother of two
To help my kids interact with other children, I often set up play-dates for my children. We also have parties at the playground. I like that my children have friends outside of school. I think this will make them more outgoing and expose them to other kinds of social situations because they will have a variety of friends.
Monica Gonzalez
Monica Gonzalez
Niece's mother was deployed
As adults, itís important for us to model good social behavior for children. When weíre In church, we shake hands with everyone. My niece does it now because she sees us shaking hands and she knows that itís appropriate. When we go to the grocery store she sees that we are friendly.
Tondra Gardner
Tondra Gardner
Licensed child care provider for two years
Kids can learn their ABCís and 123ís but they have to know how to interact with others and how to express themselves. As a child care provider, I feel like Iím preparing children to be successful in the world. We have to help them learn how to communicate.

Group Mural Featured Activity:
Group Mural
Why Social Skills Matter Featured Video:
Why Social Skills Matter
Topic: Social & Emotional Development
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