10 Tips for Teaching Kids Social Skills
Social skills are important for kids to learn, because they will have to deal with people for the rest of their lives. This includes learning how to speak kindly to people. We have a rule in our house where we have zero tolerance for unkind words. I believe words have power and I also believe that for every negative word or corrective comment spoken, that three positive words or comments should be said. On the weekend, Kale (8) called Jewel (6) ‘stupid’. I told Kale he wasn’t allowed to call Jewel stupid, and that he had to write down three nice things about Jewel. Kale refused, so he was sent to his room to calm down. After he calmed down, I dusted off my logical hat, put it on, and we went outside for a chat in the sunshine:
ME: It’s wrong to call Jewel stupid and you need to apologise to her.
KALE: But I know for a fact, that she actually is stupid, because I’m smarter.
ME: Well, remember your science book ‘What Makes Me, Me’ actually talks about five different types of intelligence: spatial, numerical, verbal, emotional and lateral. It also states in the book, that people with emotional intelligence are the most successful in life, because they are so good at knowing how others think and feel. Who do you think has the highest level of emotional intelligence in our family?
KALE: (cogs slowly turning upstairs) Well, the book must be true because it was written by a scientist. Probably Jewel. But I have spatial and numerical intelligence.
ME: Now you're not better or smarter than Jewel. And Jewel isn’t better or smarter than you. You complement one another, and if you two went in to business together you would do really well, because between you, you would have more strengths than you do on your own.
KALE: (disgusted) I would NEVER go in to business with Jewel! She’s annoying!
ME: The point is, we need to appreciate the differences in other people, because when we work as a team with our different strengths, we complement one another. So can you see that Jewel isn’t stupid and that she just has a different type of intelligence to you?
KALE: Yes I can see that now.
ME: OK write down three nice things about Jewel.
KALE: WHAT?! I don’t want to!
ME: Words have power and we need to use them wisely.
KALE: What proof do you have that words have power?
ME: Remember we heard on the news about those teenage kids killing themselves because they were bullied, and because people kept saying mean things about them. If people keep calling someone ‘stupid’, if they hear it enough times they will start to believe it.
KALE: How can saying certain words make someone want to kill themselves? I don’t get it.
ME: If someone hears ‘your life isn’t worth living’ or ‘you’re worthless’ enough times, and don’t hear any positive things, they will start to believe they are worthless. That is why these teenagers killed themselves and it is very sad. The words you say can affect someone’s thoughts, and thoughts become actions. That is why don’t tolerate negative talk in our family. Do you understand?
KALE: Yeah I think I get it.
ME: Also, if you still want to be a politician or a businessman, you’re going to need to social skills and learn how to speak kindly to people. Can you see why I’m taking the time to teach you social skills and how this will help you?
From my experience, the best way to deal with a child, like Kale, who has an analytical brain, is through logical reasoning and scientific evidence. On the other hand, I’ve found the best way to approach an emotionally intelligent child, like Jewel, is to talk about empathy and how their actions would make another person feel.
Here are 10 tips for teaching kids social skills:
- 1. Engage in conversations when both parent and child are calm.
- 2. Use a book they like as a teaching resource, e.g. the ‘What Makes Me, Me’ book.
- 3. Speak their language. With Kale I talk using facts/logic because some kids just need proof/evidence. With Jewel I talk about emotions/feelings.
- 4. Use age appropriate stories in the news to support what you are trying to teach.
- 5. Talk about what’s in it for them, how this will benefit them in their life and why it’s important for their character.
- 6. Support them in organising regular playdates with other kids, weekly if possible.
- 7. Reduce screen time and encourage face to face time when your kids have friends over.
- 8. Help them find their ‘herd’. Kale loves chess, so we take him to a chess club every weekend where he can socialise with likeminded kids. Ash goes to a book club for kids.
- 9. Praise them when you see them using their social skills positively.
- 10. Let your kids watch ‘Singa and the Kindness Cubbies' on Youtube- a cartoon that teaches about kindness.
Remember to be patient. It’s just like maths. Some people just get it, others need a lot more one on one tuition. Some kids are just born with social skills while for other kids it is something they will need to continue to learn over time. How do you teach your kids about social skills? Would love to hear your ideas in the comments :)