Aiding Your Child's Social Development Is Crucial
One of the most important parenting efforts any of us could make lies in helping our children grow confidence. Note that this confidence isn’t the kind of self-assured arrogance that may lead to trying to dominate other children, nor is it being the coolest kid on the playground or the one most able to win the affections of the teacher. It simply means giving children the means to grow in social settings well, to overcome shyness and the consequences of that, and to defend themselves when appropriate (often by knowing when to reach for authority, such as telling the teacher about someone mistreating them).
Of course, all children are different, with a range of personalities. Some have more to deal with than others, such as stutters to overcome. Some may be more sensitive and shy than others. Some may have conditions that need management first and foremost, and as such, their development will be affected and in need of more advanced help.
In general terms, however, parents can have a thorough influence on the wellbeing and development of their child when it comes to social cues, even if that just means observing them properly to ensure they’re developing at the right rate, and in finding help if they’re struggling to. With that in mind, let’s consider:
Teaching Them to Share
One of the most important social lessons our developing children can learn involves knowing how to share. This may include sharing toys, or turns on a swing. It might even involve sharing their birthday cake, or learning to play party games such as ‘pass the parcel,’ where they may have to willingly pass up an object that they desire for a temporary period.
This shows that while sharing does mean you have to put others first, you get something so much more than that - people who want to play with you. Play is an essential element of socializing, and with it come the thousands of little situations that children learn from, be that communication, imaginary role-playing, or creativity. Teaching your children to share not only allows them to get on with the people around them, but it is actually an essential means of sharing whatever limited resources, equipment or tools you have to work with. This might involve having specific time in goal or shooting penalties at the goalposts, and vice versa.
The best way to teach this lesson is to constantly emphasize it, and to properly tell your child that they’re not playing correctly if they refuse to. It’s also about making sure that conflict between children struggling with this balance doesn’t reach a fever pitch, and that your child knows how to withdraw from situations that seem to be overtly unwelcome. This way, you help them learn in the best environment.
Learning in a Social Environment
It’s important to note that learning often comes when socializing and playing, and doing so in an active manner. This is how children learn - through interaction with the world, as opposed to sitting down and academically reading through theory. For instance, when we teach our children to read, we phonetically say the pronunciations of each letter piece by piece, referring to pictures of cats or dogs. We actualize the speaking process and tie it to the page.
The same principles are used when teaching shapes to your child, which can give them a wider vocabulary, and the ability to recognize patterns. When you learn in a social environment and ensure that your child has access to that, then they develop in the best way. It’s easy to think that children play with toys for solely recreational purposes, but the truth is that the very many toys they have and how they play with them is often rather sophisticated. For instance, think of a young child simulating family relationships with a doll's house, having light fun. That imaginative work is not silly, or something to be brushed aside. It really can help children in their social, emotional, and imaginative development.
Teaching Proper Boundaries
It’s important to teach children the necessary boundaries so they know how to behave in a social group. This, of course, lists violence, hitting, and insults as off the table, and showing this behavior should mean an immediate use of correct discipline.
Boundaries may also involve avoiding being ‘bossy,’ that is, dictating children around them with how to play and what to do at all times. It also means helping them understand what their boundaries are, such as properly communicating and telling a friend not to touch them, or reporting an issue immediately to a trusted adult when appropriate.
It’s also important for them to learn how to behave at times where you’re not around, such as when playing at a friend’s house. Properly eating with the cutlery provided at the dinner table is one of these lessons, for one. The truth is that social relationships are probably defined more by what we know not to do than what we do, in fact, do. That might seem a little strange to hear and think about, but it’s true. A child learning these lessons will often get a feel for how this works, and so this serves as a great means of understanding how their development is going.
Learning When to Withdraw
One important element of learning how to behave in social settings is knowing when to avoid one. This might involve staying away from people who are actively bullying others and reporting that when we see it, as well as staying away from fights or heavy arguments.
When children learn this ability, their time at school is much more worthwhile. Socializing for the sake of it is not always good, and learning to ignore or avoid certain people is healthy - and unfortunately, a lesson that we absolutely still apply in childhood.
Teaching our children when to avoid that, such as when conflict is around, someone is ‘nasty’ or isn’t sharing, or if the play is dangerous, will over time give them the good sense in identifying these situations properly, and coming away as instructed.
Observing Who They Spend Time With
Even in adulthood, we tend to be influenced by the people we spend the most amount of time with. For that reason, then, it’s important to ensure our children are playing with the appropriate people.
That’s not to say children that suffer from difficult home environments deserve to be ‘blacklisted,’ but it’s about knowing what environments you feel safe allowing your children around. A meek, humble, but supporting childhood friend can mean ten times more than having your child try to be popular in every situation they’re in.
Look at who they naturally spend time with, and try to speak to their parents if appropriate. It will make a major difference, and being able to invite that child to your house, and vice versa, can be very healthy for their development.
Extracurricular activities can work wonders here, too. No matter if it’s a sports club, a martial arts club, an art club or even just an after-school group for children whose parents cannot pick their child up from school, having that kind of additional consideration helps them socialize outside of a simple home or school environment - with your support of course.
With this advice, you’re sure to aid your child’s social development in the best way. Parenting is a long and complex process, so don’t think you have to raise a socialite who never experiences nervousness. Just allowing our children to have some self-esteem in new social situations can go a long way.