Building a strong social foundation is key to your child’s happiness because it enables her to better handle stress (“Don’t give up!”) and keeps her pushing through difficult situations to a satisfactory conclusion (“I did it!”).
Characteristics your child will display when she is on the path to satisfying social development:
- mastering basic interaction skills (e.g. smiling, making eye contact, and listening),
- independently approaching other adults and children,
- sharing her feelings with others (can be as simple as mentioning likes and dislikes),
- communicating needs and ideas.
Social development is also defined by culture. What is considered acceptable social behavior in your family, community, or culture may not apply to others. Given the amount of cultural diversity in our world, determining a set social behavioral practice is impossible. Therefore, parents should work toward helping their children learn behaviors that will help them become successful in their school and their environments. By doing so, parents teach their children to respect and value other cultures.
It is important for you to take time to teach your child to be pro-social by doing the following: Teach your child social skills in settings where the skill will be used. For example, when your child arrives at a neighbor’s house for a play date make sure she lifts her head, looks into the other parent’s eyes, and says hello in a loud, clear voice. If teaching is not possible in a natural set ting then engage in a dramatic play experience and roleplaying.
Teach social skills that are valued in a natural setting. For example, peers and parents value when your child is polite, uses phrases like “excuse me” when interrupting a conversation, or thanks someone appropriately.
Teach social skills consistently. Teaching must be done several times a day, using simple language, and reinforcing skills in different situations. Since you have your child use manners with others in their environment, make sure she is using manners at home with you. Often children can be more relaxed in their behavior at home and not be so polite. When you teach your child social skills in a proactive way, you will have better success in the skill being used on a continuous basis.
Be highly motivated to improve your child’s social skills because social skills problems lead to peer rejection and this can be devastating to your child.
Being a four year old is tough, and being a parent is equally as hard. When children are expected to have good social skills, it will improve behavior and attachments to others. Social skills build trust in others, which supports taking risks to do activities with friends and know that she will be accepted and can accept others.