Mom Tip Monday: Social Skills

by Heligirl on February 7, 2011

in Mom Tip Monday,Parenting Articles

Last week I wrote about a very frustrating experience when I observed a preschool for Sweetness. I got a lot of feedback, both in the form of comments as well as e-mails from local folks who recognized which school I visited. This got me thinking.

I learned something fascinating about parental expectations in that experience. It opened my eyes to a whole new aspect of why I’m so very passionate about positive discipline.

There is a lot of societal pressure these days to start kids learning earlier and earlier. Heck, kindergarteners are bringing home homework and I can honestly say in my day we didn’t have any until second grade. There is so much for kids to learn and absorb today versus when we were kids.

However, in our push to give kids a head start on book learning, are we forsaking some very important skills they’ll need to succeed regardless of whether they become rocket scientists or high school dropouts?

I’m talking about social skills. Kids need our guidance on developing these valuable skills that will shape how they approach the world, their peers, and their own beliefs throughout their lives. They will develop these patterns during the first five years of their lives and how they develop them will in part determine how they move forward in life.

Positive discipline and true PD-based facilities (be they childcare centers, co-op preschools, private preschools, what have you) will put considerable focus on helping children develop these skills.

For instance, a 2 year old isn’t going to have control of impulses. She’ll grab a toy she wants from a peer. How do you respond?

With positive discipline, you get down on the kids’ level and help them problem solve, even at that age, by providing dialog they’ll be able to use later. You don’t force sharing. It isn’t a concept they’ll fully understand for years. Below are some of the things you can say in that instance that are encouraging, positive and empowering:

“Kelli, John was playing with the truck. See how it made him sad/angry when you took it away? You can ask him if you can play with it instead of taking it from him.”

“John, you can tell Kelli no, that you’re still playing with it or you can let her have it. It’s up to you. It’s OK if you still want to play with it.”

“Kelli, maybe you can ask if you can have it when he’s done.”

As kids get older, you don’t need to give them the words, just prompt problem solving:

“Kelli, if you want the truck, what can you say to John?”

“John, I can see you are still playing with the truck, what can you say to Kelli.”

Clearly, this takes a lot more work, attention and dedication on the parent, teacher and childcare worker’s part. It is much easier to toss a “John, you need to share” or “Kelli, don’t take things away from others” at the kids. But what would this teach them? That they need you to step in and solve their problems.

It is absolutely wonderful and valuable to expose kids to all kinds of learning environments and academic opportunities from birth on, but assuring you’re there to provide guidance (not control) as they learn to socially interact, problem solve and resolve conflict is paramount.

If they’re learning to do this from the beginning, they’ll have the inner dialog and self confidence to approach life with confidence, capability and success, no matter what life throws at them. And the fringe benefit, they’ll be less susceptible to peer pressure.


Making It Work Mom February 7, 2011 at 7:07 pm

Oh my gosh once again you have hit on a topic near and dear to my heart. I wholeheartedly endorse the teaching of social skills between the ages of 1-4 rather than the learning of letters and numbers. It is so important and makes learning the academics so much easier and usually less frustrating. I always joke that the preschool classrooms in our schools are like an Oprah show in that we are constantly encouraging the children to talk about their feelings and recognize their peers feelings.
Great Post!

Twitter: Heligirl
February 8, 2011 at 6:44 pm

Thanks so very much. There are many studies that show kids in preschools that simply focus on fun and play rather than academics and such score much higher later on. Love that this post spoke to you. Thanks for letting me know. 🙂

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