One of the most important types of skills we can help our child acquire is definitely that related to the capacity to know oneself and know the others. This set of skills might be more critical to your child’s happiness and success in life than academic and financial success or some other conventional measure. Managing one’s emotions and relating well with others will likely be a crucial factor in your child’s life, much more important than their IQ, for example. So, what can we, as parents, do to help them develop social intelligence?
If you child is exposed to empathy for their own feelings from the most important adults in their lives, they will be much more likely to show empathy for others later in life. This, as we all know, is one of the cornerstones of successful interpersonal relationships.
Don’t force toddlers to share
Many parents don’t want their children to be selfish, so they frown and react each time their child doesn’t want to share something with other children. What those parents fail to understand is the child’s need to feel secure in their ownership before they can share and that forcing them to share against their will actually delays the development of sharing skills. What we should do, instead, is introduce the concept of taking turns in which children take turns when it comes to playing with a toy.
Teach them to wait
If your child has a meltdown waiting for their turn, it usually means they have some big feelings to let out and are merely using this opportunity to do so. Just like adults, children often get rigid about possession while trying to shore up their fragile equilibrium. If you show empathy in those moments by telling them you understand how hard it is to wait and holding them while they cry, you’ll see how they’ll stop crying soon and move on.
Grabbing is something that many children do, but we should not rush to intervene. Sometimes when children grab, the other child doesn’t care, as is often witnessed in groups that implement great playgroup programmes. However, if your child is always the one to grab, you need to intervene, because they are probably trying to stave off their unhappy feelings and you need to help them deal with such emotions.
Help them learn to appreciate sharing
It’s been confirmed by many studies and research that when we praise children for sharing, they do it more, but only when we’re watching. When we’re not, they tend to share less, because they know they won’t be praised and that they don’t have our attention. That’s why it’s important to help them make the choice to share in the future. This is best done if we focus their attention on the effect of their choice: “Look how happy Jenna is that she can play with your doll.” When you adopt the policy of letting kids have a turn for as long as they want, they are happy to give the item to the other child, because they get to see how wonderful it feels to give.
Set limits on physical aggression
Children sometimes resort to physical aggression in order to channel their emotions. However, they should be taught that the way they use their arms and legs affects other people. Instead of being punitive, parents should teach their children healthy self-management techniques. We need to remember that underneath anger is usually hurt or fear, which should be acknowledged, rather than labelled. When they say they hate someone, for example, we need to explain that hate is not a feeling, but a stance and that they are probably just angry because of something, especially if they’re talking about a family member.
Helping our children adopt the correct behaviour and develop social intelligence will greatly benefit them in the long-run and that is probably one of the most precious skills we can teach them.