Experts with the National Education Association (NEA) are very clear that kids need pro or positive social skills to be successful, not just academically but globally. As adults we are teaching skills by example, even if we're not aware of it. So as teachers, mentors and parents of children it's important to recognize some of the key social skills our kids need to develop and consciously focus our energy on providing role-modeling for those skills.
Eating is a basic human need that most of us meet multiple times a day and rarely alone. So teaching kids how to use good social skills during meal times is important. Basic skills include which utensils to use, how to use those utensils properly, how to pass dishes around the table and when to excuse yourself from the table. Start with the basic points of tableware and how to use each piece. Then move on to using a napkin and how to interact politely with the other diners at the table. Keep the lessons simple and short, addressing only a couple at a time. Always model good table etiquette yourself.
Jacquelyn Mize and Ellen Abell with the Department of Family and Child Development at Auburn University stress the importance of parents in helping their children develop social communication skills. Basic communications skills include using "please" and "thank you" whenever appropriate, waiting your turn to speak and refraining from using inappropriate words like curse words and toilet language. Encourage positive communications skills by discussing and modeling how to be a good listener, avoiding interrupting other speakers and speaking respectfully to peers as well as adults.
Many types of bullying occur when kids lack sufficient conflict resolution skills. Teaching kids that it's OK to have differences with their peers and that disagreements should never be addressed with physical aggression opens the dialogue for teaching skills for working through conflicts. Teaching these skills helps children learn how to get along with lots of people and handle a variety of situations. Start by briefly explaining positive conflict resolution. Then make up and role-play an age-appropriate scene in which your child would use her new skills, to practice.
Sharing is a significant social skill that does not come easily to all kids and can have a notable impact on their adult success. Teaching the skill of having healthy personal boundaries while at the same time being willing to share with your peers can be a challenge. Sharing is the basis of good negotiation and compromise. Appropriate, healthy sharing builds community. Sharing inappropriately can foster bitterness or resentment. Addressing sharing as a skill to model and practice will build the skill in your child.
Good personal hygiene is a basic social skill that all kids need. In addition, cleanliness can develop other personal skills that will benefit them as adults. For example, taking pride in your personal appearance builds confidence and attracts people instead of repelling them. The ability to take care of your possessions and keep your surroundings neat and clean helps build organizational skills. Being able to plan ahead to have a clean-up time at the end of a play or work activity can encourage successful time-management skills.
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