As young children begin their academic careers, parents often wonder are they doing enough to keep up.
“Does Timmy know all his 100 sight words?”
“Should I start Olivia with physics?”
“Does Emma know her multiplication table?”
However, many parents would be surprised to know that social skills predicted outcomes into adulthood much more than early academics.
For instance, a research study published in 2015 showed that social skills observed in kindergarten showed significant correlation with well-being at age 25, even with factoring in for family demographics and early academic ability,
Social skills far outweigh intellectual intelligence!
Kindergarteners who displayed social ability were more likely to graduate from high school, go to college, stay out of trouble, and start a career than those who showed a lower level of social aptitude, regardless of their socio-economic status or what age they began reading.
So while many parents feel pressured to cut back on free and play time, it's actually those “not as important skills" that predict long-term success.
Here are five important social skills you can foster in your child.
1. How to communicate
Free time is a powerful tool for the development of social skills in a child’s early years. By playing with others, children learn to problem solve, negotiate, communicate, share and take turns.
2. How to grow grit
Where does problem-solving come from? And at what point do we, as parents, teach problem-solving and perseverance? We can teach problem-solving by allowing them to fail and try again. When we ask children how a problem should be solved or how their solution is working out, we give them a chance to think about the experience and results. We're teaching them that mistakes help us grow as long as we take the lessons learned from them.
3. How to manage emotions
The development of this crucial skill calls for the naming of emotions. Whether you do this in your own home (“Your sister doesn’t look very happy you took her jumprope without asking.”) or though a storybook (“How do you think this made him feel?”), it’s important that you give each emotion a name. That way, your child can recognize it for what it is.
What drives the plot in most books are conflict and emotion. If you are able to have conversations about observed emotions of the characters, it’s often easier because your child isn't tied up in the emotion roller coaster themselves. From an unemotional vantage point, your child may be more accepting about the emotions in the book and then apply it in real life.
It’s important to make sure that your kids get plenty of time interacting with other children since excessive screen use may prevent the development of your child's social skills to recognize emotions in others.
4. How to be kind to themselves and others
Children who learn empathy and compassion for others adapt in the real world more easily. Being kind to others requires them to understand the needs of others. By complimenting your child when you notice kindness, You can encourage your children’s helpful and kind behavior by praising them for acts of kindness, both big and small.
Children can help with household daily tasks which include bringing in the groceries, grabbing a band-aid when someone is hurt, or holding the door open. It can, also, be as simple as smiling, saying “Thank you”, or giving a compliment.
In the infamous marshmallow study, where a child must delay gratification and wait before consuming a treat, most children did not have this skill down yet.
One way to foster delayed gratification in children is though sports. For example, tennis and soccer are sports that require a lot of time and patience to develop. The success is not seen overnight. Instead, children must practice and develop long-term goals which can help delay their gratification to win a trophy.
Books are also a great way to build these skills. By taking a character and an imaginative storyline, children can stand in the character’s shoes, thinking outside of their own perspective.
It may seem as if, with social media’s highlight reel, that your child is academically behind or that you need to ‘catch up’. However, the reality is everyone learns at their own pace and social skills they develop in early childhood may assist them far better and for much longer.