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Social Skills: A Learned Behavior Or Not?

Social Skills

Social skills are what we use to have positive relationships with others. It involves the ability to communicate, problem-solve, make decisions, self-manage, and control relationships with friends and others. Social skills are a learned skill, and it is more than just having good manners.

Social skills are learned from birth, and have to be learned from others. The biggest influence children will have for learning social skills is from their parents. Parents are the building blocks for learning and understanding social skills. Children will watch carefully, and often imitate exactly how their parents behave and treat others. Also, social skills build on each other one at a time. For example, children have to learn how to lose without yelling, before they can learn how to show good sportsmanship.

So the big questions are:

  • How does my child learn social skills?
  • What are the signs that my child may be having trouble with social skills?

Teaching your child social skills can be easy and fun. First, talk with your child about the importance of social skills, and decide on what skills they need to work on. Teach each skill one at a time, and ALWAYS talk about what each social skills’ behavior “looks like” and “sounds like”. Then, practice these skills. Learning social skills will help your child succeed in school and in life.

Now, what are the signs that a child might be struggling with social skills? First, social skills has 3 different areas: 1. Physical, 2. Verbal, and 3. Thinking. Each area will have different skills a child might struggle with:

  1. The Physical Area includes skills such as: eye contact, personal space, body language, and facial expressions.
  2. The Verbal Area includes skills that relate to: taking turns in conversation and in games, maintaining topics in conversation, sharing too much information or not enough information, talking too soft or too loud, difficulty with receiving or giving compliments, avoiding social situations, or difficulty knowing what to say or do during introductions.
  3. The last area, the Thinking Area, includes the following: trouble understanding someone else’s emotions or perspectives, trouble with humor or sarcasm, difficulty with social cues in conversations, and saying words that may hurt others.  A child might have trouble in just one area or all three areas.

So finally, if you think your child needs assistance with learning social skills, then seek help from a Speech-Language Pathologist or Occupational Therapist. The world is full of social situations, and we need to equip children with the skills they need.

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One thought on “Social Skills: A Learned Behavior Or Not?

  1. Cassandra Lopez

    I agree, parents are key in helping a child develop social skills, but I believe we also need to include educators into that equation. Traditional Kindergarten classrooms are doing less and less play, and more preparation for literacy and math skills. Play is essential for a child’s healthy development. A traditional Kindergarten classroom had a sand table, blocks and a housekeeping play area, this was where a child was allowed to learn social skills on their terms. Through play, children develop social skills that are crucial for them to have positive relationships and interactions with others. By playing games, children learn about rules, they learn about winning and losing and “playing fair.” These are skills that will serve them well onto academic success. As a child plays and interacts with others (either parent or other child) they develop language skills, develop cognitive skills. They learn to solve problems. They develop physical skills, such as fine and gross motor skills. All of these positively affect the mental and physical well being of the child, with social skills following along. Through play, children learn how to navigate and resolve conflicts. Piaget found that social relationships function as a way to provide modeling, feedback, challenge and support of a child’s healthy development. I say, we need to focus less on Kindergarteners writing memoirs and more on PLAY!


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