Children learn the foundation of their social skills from their parents and other adults who are around them for significant periods of time in their early formative years. These skills are learned through everyday interactions so parents must be aware that every interaction they have with their child will influence their social development. Basic skills include sharing and taking turns and expand into more complicated areas like anger management. Parents teach by example, whether they intend to or not. And children also learn from games that teach rules like waiting your turn and communication skills.
Some children absorb these lessons with ease, while others may require more explicit instruction. Being proactive and using instruction when a problem or lack of social skill is detected is far more effective than disciplining after the fact. The former builds skills while the latter only teaches obedience. If parents focus on social skills as something to learned, like throwing a ball or riding a bike, then they will better understand why some children will require more help and more practice. It must of course be mentioned that if the parents themselves have poor social skills then their offspring are likely to fall into the same behavior.
Effective teaching takes discipline on the part of parents. Often the natural reaction to a child who is whining or screaming so as to interrupt what a parent is doing is to yell at the child or discipline if they do not comply. This will do nothing to teach the child about the appropriate way to deal with the situation. As mentioned previously the key to imparting social skills to your child is more about teaching than disciplining. For the interrupting child, the first step is to teach the child a different method to get a parent’s attention, such as tapping them gently on the leg. Tapping someone to get their attention may seem so obvious to adults that you might forget that a child may not have been exposed to the concept. So the first step is to provide them with a different choice.
When a child exhibits a behavior that it positive, it is important to give praise so that the behavior is reinforced as a good thing to do. This is a proactive approach to teaching social skills and it is far better than the reactive approach of only punishing bad behavior. This is more work for parents, but the rewards are a closer, happier parent child relationship and a more socially capable child.
Learning the basics of social interaction will help a child do well in school. A child that already possesses solid social skills will be less apt to get in trouble with teachers for inappropriate behavior. Not having to worry about what the right thing to do is, will free the child to focus on develop other skills.
Of course, when starting school, a child will be away from their parents and forced learn an entire new set of social skills in relation to interacting with their peer group. A parent has very little control over this development, but by preparing a child with a solid foundation of basic social skills, they have given their child a much better chance for success.