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Social Skills

We use social skills every day – greeting co-workers, asking a clerk for help, telephoning a friend, talking to a salesperson about a product, giving someone a compliment. The list goes on and on. Using these skills appropriately greatly influences how other people treat us and how we get along in the world. If we have learned a wide variety of social skills, we can effectively handle more situations and get along better with more people.

Obviously, it is essential for children to learn social skills too. Social skills define for them what is acceptable and not acceptable behavior to other people and to society in general. For parents, they provide a framework for teaching children how to behave.

You can teach your children social skills by using Preventive Teaching and Corrective Teaching. When your kids use skills appropriately or make an attempt to use them, you can reward and reinforce their efforts through Effective Praise. In other words, you pick the teaching technique that best fits the situation you’re in with your kids. This enables you to teach children how, why, and where they should use these skills.

When your kids can use social skills appropriately, they are more likely to know what to do or say when they deal with other people and be more successful in their interactions. Parents who actively teach social skills to their children are equipping them with “survival skills” for getting along with others, for learning self-control and, generally, for having a successful life.

Helpful Hints

Teach each of the skills step by step.

Try to include a brief pause following each step that gives your child time to process the information. Take time to explain to your children when they can use these skills and give positive child-oriented reasons for how and why these skills will help them. Let them see how one skill overlaps into other areas. For example, knowing how to accept criticism from parents is very similar to accepting criticism from other adult authority figures such as a teacher or coach.

Make learning social skills fun.

Praise your children or reward them with something special for taking the time to learn. They might not realize the benefits of learning social skills right away. But the more they use these skills and see the positive way other people respond to them, the more the skills will “sink in.”

Finally, be patient.

After your children learn a new skill, it may take awhile before they are comfortable using it and before it really becomes a part of them. Learning new skills is an ongoing process. It’s not a “done deal” just because skills have been practiced once or twice. Comparisons can be drawn to almost any other skill we learn. You don’t learn how to dribble a basketball in one try; you don’t learn how to drive a car the first time you climb behind the wheel. We don’t become good at anything without practice, practice, practice.

Review the 16 basic social skills all children should learn and master. Remember that when you teach these skills, you must use wording and explanations that fit your child’s age, developmental level and abilities.