Research shows that children with good social skills make friends easier, do better at school and are more resilient to life's blows.
Social skills are behaviors which help others feel comfortable with us and help us make friends. By teaching your children social skills such as manners and good eye contact, you are helping your child develop vital strategies for being successful in their relationships. Karen McIlveen, principal of The Grace Academy, says that teaching your children these skills gives them confidence and boosts their self-esteem. "When a child knows what to say and how to act in any situation, it eases their anxiety and allows them to act confidently."
Children need to learn proper manners and social skills now more than ever. Competition for spots in universities and jobs is becoming tougher and the young people with well developed and natural social skills will stand out and have an advantage over their peers. Knowing the proper social graces allows children to feel confident and poised.
Maura Graber, director of The R.S.V.P. Institute of Etiquette, said: "During one's teen years, it is even harder to feel sure of oneself, as teens are in that confusing position of being between childhood and adulthood. It is human nature to 'act out' when unsure of the proper behavior for any given situation. Teens need manners as social tools, to navigate their way through the differing social events they will encounter as they grow up into mature adults." After attending a course on etiquette and other social skills at Grace Academy, Toralee, 14, responded that she learned a lot of important life skills. "The course was great! I especially enjoyed learning about posture. I think any teenager in 21st century life would really enjoy it and it would be of great use to them."
It is often assumed that social skills will be acquired by osmosis. However, while some social skills are learned implicitly, all children would benefit from being taught social skills.
Strategies for improving your children's social skills:
1) Talk to your children about why manners are important. Use examples to illustrate your point. "When your friend came over yesterday and didn't say hello to me, it hurt my feelings. That's why it is important for you to always say hello when you go into someone's house."
2) Model good manners and courteousness. Children will be watching their parents to see how they behave. If you are a bit unsure of what is still relevant today, look it up on the net or go to the library.
3) Practice good manners with your children daily. Practice morning greetings, table manners, introducing friends and offering to help, etc. Some manners need to be taught through role-playing as children may not have regular opportunities to practice them, such as how to introduce mum to your teacher.
4) Make use of the television. Ask your children to evaluate the behavior of people in shows. Are they being polite? Is that the way a kid should talk to their parent? Use the situations to get your child to think about how it could have been done differently. Get them to think about what they see instead of blindly accepting the behavior as normal.
5) Get into the habit of sitting at the table at least 3 times a week. This allows many opportunities to practice courtesy and conversation. Even if you eat in front of the TV, make sure your children use good manners.
6) Every social situation provides a teaching opportunity. Take a few minutes to prompt your child. "There is a new kid over there. How would you start a conversation with him?"
If parents are not comfortable teaching their children these skills or just don't have the time, there are now courses available at various finishing schools or etiquette schools