As teachers and parents, we tend to put a lot of focus and energy on academics. We want to make sure that our children are learning basic math and literacy skills. But, teaching the whole child actually goes beyond those fundamental concepts. We have to remind ourselves that a little one’s social and emotional growth is equally important. When you are working with preschool-aged children, it is imperative that you grow their interpersonal skills - life skills that teach children how to communicate effectively and interact appropriately with their peers.
In recent years, technology has created an obstacle for children in terms of promoting their socio-emotional development. Even though the integration of technology greatly aids our personal lives, and is excellent for educational purposes, it can stunt their interpersonal skills. Face-to-face interaction is key when it comes to effectively solving conflicts. If they don’t spend time interacting with others and if we aren’t proactively teaching these skills, it could affect them later in life. Lack of interpersonal skills is a major theme that current top employers are experiencing when hiring younger generations. While this may be far off in your young child's future, there are things you can start doing now that will set him/her for success.
Too much of a good thing can be problematic! Make sure to limit your child’s screen time. I know it may be tempting to pull out the tablet or smartphone during a nice dinner out, but allowing young children to observe and engage in conversation will help their communication and emotional skills! Instead of watching TV or playing computer games at home, encourage fun educational activities, play dates and unstructured play. Playing board games is one of my favorite free time activities to do with kids. It greatly boosts their conflict resolution skills and in some cases, gives them great tools for coping with disappointment!
Be an Example
The best way to teach a skill is by modeling. If you want your child to develop good interpersonal skills, you must possess and embody good interpersonal skills. One way to do this is through active listening. You can show listening skills both verbally and nonverbally. Model active listening by making eye contact with your child, removing outside distractions, and showing that you understand by nodding your head. You can also encourage questioning. Asking appropriate and topical questions is the essential building block needed to be an engaging conversationalist. These strategies will leave them feeling validated, and they are likely to repeat this behavior when talking to their peers.
It’s important to take time to act out realistic scenarios so that they can learn strategies on how to respond in difficult situations. In my class, I ask the students to pair up and give them a scenario such as, “A friend in class is saying hurtful things about you. How do you resolve this?” They would work together to come up with ways to handle the situation, and then they act it out in front of the class. The best part is that you can adjust your scenarios based on your age group. For pre-K, an appropriate prompt would be: “Someone took the toy you were playing with at recess. What should you do?” For very little children, Dr. Seuss has written an entire collection of books that teach social skills. Topics range from self-acceptance to standing up for what is right. I absolutely love using these books!
These are just a few techniques that you can implement at home or in your classroom. If we develop these skills in our children they will have increased self-esteem, confidence, and amazing manners! These qualities will undoubtedly prepare them to be productive and essential members of society!
Experienced School Manager and education professional with a demonstrated history of working in the education management industry.