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Helping kids learn to get along and build relationships is one of the most important things caregivers can do for them. Social skills are the key to a successful future.
Social skills come naturally to some of us and not to others. It can be tough to teach kids how to get along with other kids.
Helping kids get along with other kids
Building friendships will help kids learn to navigate social connections their entire lives. Sharing is an important skill to master before children enter the school setting. Using our words to express ourselves and to get what we need is a skill that’s imperative for kids to learn. And children learn by example! Click here to see how important social skills are for future success.
Teaching kids social skills
Children learn what they live! The most important way we can teach kids how to interact with others is by making sure our interactions are kind and respectful while still helping us get what we need. Are we going to raise kids who can express themselves through words to interact with others if every time we want them to do something, we swat their behinds?
I’m pretty sure if we yell at kids and spank them all the time, they will learn that they get what they want by yelling and hitting too. We have to lead by example. If we bully kids to get them to do what we want, they will grow up to be bullies too.
Model kindness for kids
Getting on children’s level and looking at them face to face while speaking to them kindly will show them that they can solve their problems by expressing what they want that way as well. Eye contact, touch, and calm voices will get a person a long way in life.
The earlier kids learn that, the better they will be at it when they are in a setting that has less supervision. Click here to see how to model the behavior you want to see in kids.
Focus on children’s strengths
Kids will get along with people far better if they have good self-esteem and believe in themselves. You can take a child that has a tough time interacting with others and compliment them on what they are doing right and they will do more of it. I have had some extremely challenging kids come through my daycare, but I have always found, once you build trust with them, they are more likely to listen to you.
I can build a repore with a difficult child within a few weeks of attendance here, over a few months, we can learn each other’s ways well. I can find things to celebrate each child by looking. I have to make myself notice how good they are at stacking things. Then maybe I can ask them to help little Johnny stack things too and help teach him.
Then I go from having a child that is hitting Johnny, to having a child that is a helper. You just have to find their strengths and really notice and celebrate them. It’s an art, but anyone can learn to do it well.
Just like kids are not born perfectly well-behaved, adults don’t become adults and naturally be great at helping kids expand on their strengths. Give yourself some time to develop the skill and you’ll be surprised how good you’ll get at it.
Now I wasn’t born yesterday, I know sometimes the only thing you can find positive about little Sally is the color of her shirt and how it brings out her eyes. Okay, then start there. You’ll notice more things the more you practice. I promise.
Teach empathy to kids
Empathy is an amazing teacher. We are born selfish and only concerned with our own needs. Hopefully, as we grow and mature, we begin to notice people outside of ourselves. I have an anxiety disorder and quite a few sensory processing difficulties. As a child, I could be a ringtail toot. (that’s a southern term, like hand full or pistol) I would throw fits because I was overstimulated or overwhelmed by a situation. I hate to say it but every now and then I still do. Luckily for all of us, they have gotten better.
I’m not just a mean person or selfish, I really cannot help it when I do it. I have improved a lot and it hardly ever happens anymore, but now and again I make a fool of myself. A few years ago, my daycare parents were so incredibly kind to replace a camera my husband had accidentally broken as a Christmas gift.
They researched, they sneaked, they sleuthed and they found the replacement camera, bought it as a group, and wrapped it and brought it to a party. They gave it to me with a kind speech and everyone watched while I opened it. I was so overwhelmed by their kindness, I got overstimulated and I shoved everything back in the bag and set it down, and walked away.
Social skills to learn to get along
I wasn’t gracious, I wasn’t sweet, I just acted like a fool. They thought I didn’t like it. But the fact was, I loved it so much, I was just overwhelmed. I am a grown adult woman, 46 years of age, but I still have trouble in social situations.
Guess what? People still love me. People still bring their kids to my daycare. People still are my friends. My husband is still married to me. Lots of people like me. But there are times when I make a fool of myself if things get too much.
All this to say, if a child acts inappropriately, consider the fact that none of us are perfect. Consider that maybe they have regret after they do it. Consider that maybe they need someone to show them how to deal with a situation.
Teaching empathy is showing kids how someone else may feel. We can say when you hit little Johnny, it hurts, do you like it when someone hurts you? We can say, look at little Johnny’s face, does he look happy? You do not get to hurt other people because no one likes being hurt.
Another great part of teaching empathy is to have the child who made a bad decision make the victim feel better. Does Suzie want a hug? Does she want you to play with her? Does she want you to give her book back? What would it take to make Suzie feel better? Children need to keep working at it until their playmate feels better or they will grow into adults that don’t know how to make people feel better when they make mistakes and hurt them.
Teach problem-solving to kids
Kids need to learn how to fix problems. They need to build skills in this area. If we fix everything for them, they will never learn to be independent. You can’t fix many things for people in life, so as your children grow, make sure they have natural consequences and learn from their mistakes. Shielding them from everything will actually cripple them rather than help them. It’s hard as a parent to watch your kids struggle, but it’s love when you do it.
Teach kids to stand up for themselves
Kids need to learn how to say no to other people and defend themselves. If someone takes a toy away from a child and they come and tattle to you and every time you make the other child give the toy back, that child who tattled never learns how to get their own toy back.
Kids have to learn how to stand up for themselves. You can teach them to use their words to express how they feel. You can also teach them to compromise by helping the child who took their toy find something else to play with or even take turns with the toy so they can both use it. You’ll be surprised at what kids come up with if you allow them to work it out on their own.
Teach respect to kids
Kids deserve our respect. They are people, just like we are. Sometimes we get the, I’m all the all-powerful adult attitude when we should really be teaching kids that you give respect to get it. If people always listen to you because they are scared of you, eventually someone will come along who is not scared of you. Then how will you get what you need? Being respectful breeds more respect.
Expressing ourselves can be difficult. I know sometimes it’s really hard for me to say what I need to another adult. Especially if I don’t have a trusting relationship with that adult. I am scared to death to go to the doctor. I don’t like being touched, I’m shy, and at the doctor’s office, there is a lot of invasion of space and privacy.
It’s tough for me to say how I feel when I need medical treatment. When I was a child, I had this phobia, and it was made worse by being forced to do things against my will. The phobia has continually grown worse and I have even pushed a nurse when I got overwhelmed. I was 40 years old when I did that. FORTY! It’s humiliating.
I just have to try to calm down enough to share what I need and what is happening with the doctor or I won’t get good medical care. If all I do is lie and be quiet and push nurses, how can I get what I need?
How to help kids make friends
Sharing, inviting other kids to their play, having empathy, expressing themselves, being respectful and all the rest are all ways that help kids build relationships, friendships, and get along. It’s so important to take the time to show kids how to interact for their future social skills.
Teaching kids how to get along is a lot more important than it seems at first glance. The number one indicator of later school success is good social skills. Kids need to know how to say what they need, that it’s okay to disagree with people, but they should still be gracious, kind and respectful, and how to have empathy to have a good and satisfying life. People need people and we have to get along to have people in our life.
There are so many ways to model how to get along for kids. We can use books that show it. We can act it out with puppets or dolls. We can practice with other adults or kids. The important thing is to remember that it’s our job to teach kids to think of others and get along, it doesn’t come naturally to them.
None of us are born sharing. We are born hungry and we know if we cry and scream, someone will feed us. Over time, we develop these skills that help us get along with other people. Some of us more than others. It’s a good thing to think about and focus on if we are touching the future through teaching kids.
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