One of the most important things we need to teach our kids is to understand how their behaviour affects others. The ability to put themselves in someone else’s shoes, and to develop empathy is vital when it comes to forming satisfactory relationships.
Empathetic behaviours, such as kindness, courtesy, gratitude and consideration are what are termed ‘prosocial’ – and, arguably, the worlds of social media and gaming are teaching our kids anything but this kind of selflessness – and putting the focus firmly on them.
As parents, we are well aware that our kids have been born into an era where technology is affecting relationships like never before. Traditional forms of communication and manners seem to have fallen by the wayside.
I don’t know about you, but I feel as if I am struggling to keep up with these changes and, as a blogger, I use social media every day! The social norms that were previously valid seem to have disappeared.
Technology has changed the way we interact with each other. The driving force behind social media often seems to be a focus on the individual, not society as a whole.
I’m sure that many parents are asking themselves what can be done to promote social skills in children and release them from the grip of their pcs, ipads and gaming consoles.
How to promote social skills in children?
We’re not just talking about politeness and courtesy. Whilst those are important, they are just the tip of the iceberg.
We are talking about a way of living and relating to others which positively impacts everyone.
Arguably, the first, and simplest way to take back a little control and to promote social skills in children is to restrict their screen time.
Easier said than done but I have noticed that my children’s attention span has dramatically reduced since they started to use iPads.
By limiting the hours kids spend in front of a screen, we can help them to improve this focus – especially important when it comes to homework – and to do this, you can use screen time limit apps like FamilyTime which will help parents and carers to allocate appropriate screen time.
What do we need to teach our children?
Every parent will have different priorities but there are common behaviours which benefit everyone in society, irrespective of culture and education.
1. Help others who need it
It is important to teach our children to help those who need it – with the caveat, of course, that the help should always be welcomed. For example, helping a neighbour carry in their shopping, giving up their seat on the bus for the elderly or infirm or holding open a door to let others through.
2. Give and share
Generosity and forgiveness are cornerstones of good social behaviour. We have always taught Caitlin and Ieuan the importance of supporting charities and recognising where they are better off than their peers. Giving something back benefits the recipient and the giver.
Having a high ’emotional IQ’ is as important as the level of intelligence you demonstrate academically. From personal experience, those who are able to respect the emotions of others and offer comfort and assistance tend to go further in all walks of life than those whose focus is solely on achieving their own ambitions.
Telling children what they do right is just as important as gentle correction and pointing out errors. Modelling the behaviour we hope to see is a powerful message. Encouraging children to praise others in turn and to offer genuine compliments will help them to make friends.
5. Active listening
Listening is a skill and it requires focus on the other person. No wonder then times spent on Whatsapp and Facebook seem to do very little to encourage listening. Social media specialises in the ‘soundbite’ and the meme, not traditional conversational skills so important for truly getting to know someone.
As parents, though, it is equally our responsibility to listen to our kids with our full attention. It is always so sad to see parents scrolling through their phone apps instead of truly engaging with a little one who is trying to talk to them.
Until a certain age, it is difficult for kids to put themselves in another’s place but there is still merit in teaching our kids empathy from the start. Little ones should always be encouraged to try to understand others, how they may be feeling and what reasons may lie behind their behaviours. For this reason, of course, play is a vital aspect of a child’s development.
Showing solidarity with other people and groups in the face of suffering, problems and difficult situations is the mark of a mature society. Again, this relates to teaching our kids the importance of charity and a willingness to offer to support to those less fortunate than ourselves.
There is so much that we, as parents, need to teach our children. Their social and emotional education is as important as anything they learn in school.
By helping our children develop these social skills, we will hopefully encourage them to grow into strong, positive adults who understand that good social behaviours benefit not only society at large but they themselves.