10 social skills every child needs to know

Childhood is full of awkward moments ― having these abilities will help junior find their way in any situation.

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Before you know it, your newborn is a playful toddler, about to begin his first year in preschool , which comes with making new friends, and socialising with teachers and other adults.

Naturally, you are concerned about your little one’s relationships with his peers and those he’ll meet ― is your tot shy? Will he be able to make friends?

While children tend to pick up some social skills naturally through their interactions with people around them, psychologist Daniel Koh notes, “It is best to equip the child with the basics, so they can use it when it is needed, rather than having to think on the spot or in panic”.

He also adds that with this knowledge of basic social skills, your child will be able to discern if it is appropriate to pick up some else’s behaviour.

Says Dr Hana Ra Adams, a school counsellor at the German European School Singapore, “The sooner children are taught how to be in the world, the easier it will be for them to navigate their own path built on their family’s values and beliefs.”

The sooner children are taught how to be in the world, the easier it will be for them to navigate their own path built on their family’s values and beliefs.

To give your mini-me a good head start as they start interacting with more people, take a look at important social skills they should have:

1. Has good manners

Teach your tot to use words like “please” and “thank you” as it’s important for your child to be polite and courteous. Dr Adams points out that using words like “thank you” or “excuse me” in the appropriate situations “spreads kindness and respect”.

2. Has communication skills

It is important for your child to be able to hold a conversation well. Introducing themselves politely, making eye contact with the other party, listening and sharing appropriately are critical things in a good conversation you can teach your child.

3. Can handle emotions

There will be times when your tot may feel agitated and want to throw a fit or make a scene. As this isn’t the right way to behave as they grow older. So, do teach your little one how to handle and control his emotions in certain situations.

4. Has patience

This is related to handling emotions as well. Patience is an important value that your child should pick up from young. You can emphasise this virtue by asking your tot to wait in line, or to wait for their turn when playing games.
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5. Apologises when necessary

Getting your tot to say sorry when they are in the wrong is an important skill to teach. If they have done something wrong, they should first admit that they are in the wrong, and apologise after owning up to their mistakes.

6. Not saying yes to everything

It can be dangerous if your child is passive and agrees to everything ― they could succumb to peer pressure in the future. This doesn’t mean that they should be stubborn and reject every idea other than theirs. Rather, you should teach your little one to find a balance.

Notes Dr Lim Boon Leng, a psychiatrist from Dr BL Lim Centre for Psychological Wellness, “Learning to disagree appropriately in a nice manner which is acceptable to the other party helps them to be able to speak their mind but not offend others”.

“Children who never learn to accept no as an answer will have a strong and unrealistic sense of entitlement.”

7. Accepts “no” as an answer

Children tend to throw tantrums when things don’t go their way ― whether they weren’t allowed to buy a new toy, or if they didn’t get to eat what they wanted for dinner.

Dr Lim points out, “Children who never learn to accept no as an answer will have a strong and unrealistic sense of entitlement.” So, they must learn to behave maturely and understand that they cannot always get what they want.

Koh adds that this social skill works only when the child is given a reason as to why they were told “no”, so that there is mutual understanding.

8. Can follow rules

Your little one must be able to be disciplined and heed instructions. Training them from young to listen to and follow rules may help them in the future when they go to school or even when they start working.

9. Has confidence

It is good to teach your tot to be confident. This means acknowledging his strengths (as well as his weaknesses). They should be able to accept compliments, as this will motivate your little one to continue to do well next time. Dr Lim notes that in our Asian setting, it’s common for us to become embarrassed or anxious when someone compliments us. He adds, “Many a time, it goes beyond knowing how to take a compliment but rather in learning to accept a compliment that one has done well.”

10. Isn’t shy to ask for help

It is not uncommon for little kids to be shy or apprehensive to ask for help, especially from people they aren’t very familiar with. So, explain to your little one that it is completely natural to need help from time to time, and they should not be afraid to ask for assistance.

Photos: iStock

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