Eight-year-old John has a tough time making and keeping friends. He is always displaying inappropriate behaviours like acting bossy, shouting at the other kids, not sharing etc. His parents are very concerned that John will grow up to be a very lonely child.

By Rachna Buxani

Published: Sun 21 Aug 2005, 1:06 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 6:06 PM

Children need to learn relationship competencies such as taking turns, sharing, greetings, helping others, following directions, using kind words, sympathy for others, and more.

Building positive peer relations is probably one of the most important developmental tasks that a child has to accomplish. Healthy relationships with peers helps a child build a sound self-esteem and promotes psychological well-being. On the other hand unhealthy peer relations is a predictor of later social, academic, or psychological problems in adolescence and adulthood. Parents can help build healthy social skills in their children. Firstly, start by identifying what are your child's strengths and weaknesses in the area of social skills so that you can develop a plan to help. Watch for signs including the child not waiting his turns; not having many friends; being a poor loser; not understanding proper personal space; using a whiney, unfriendly or loud voice and being overly-critical.

One strategy that works very well to help kids build social skills is “stop-think-act.” Ask your child to think before reacting in order to ensure appropriate behaviour. Role-playing situations and suitable reactions is another technique that can be adopted to help children. Another technique that is effective in this regard is problem-solving i.e. list out problem situations and brainstorm appropriate solutions to deal with them. Also, it is helpful to teach your child proper ways of communicating like using “I” statements and proper tone of voice. Developing respect for others and feelings of empathy.

Parents can also help foster friendships by arranging for one-on-one play times with new friends, providing interactive toys and teaching conversation openers. Teach your child to embrace diversity. Teach them that difference is what makes their world a special and interesting place. It is also important for parents to teach their children how to handle rude people by staying calm and ignoring the behaviour. Never give your child permission to hit another person. If necessary, teach your child to protect himself, but not to fight. Talk with him/her about alternative ways to resolve conflict.

Psychologists suggest that social and emotional development is equally important to academic learning in order to be happy and succeed in life. Thus, one of the most important roles that parents play in their child's development is that of teaching their child social skills.

— The writer is Co-Ordinator - Counselling Services, GEMS

More news from City Times