Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

PREPARING FOR SOCIAL HARMONY: ITS NEVER TO EARLY TO START THE TEACHINGS OF SOCIAL COMPETENCE

By Dyan

A key element to professional success is the ability to communicate well and work together as a team. Knowing that communication is a teachable skill, we would like to see it taught in more schools, right along with the three R's; however, should we be waiting until our children are school age before commencing instruction on the value of social communication?
Although the period from birth to age 24-months is typically a time driven by instinctual drives for comfort, food, and nurturing, it is also a time when many behaviour patterns, attitudes and displays of emotional expression are being established. It is imperative that parents seize this time to imprint upon their children the beginning lessons for social competency.

Children from newborn through toddler-hood will exhibit:
  • beginning signs of communication and social competence as early as three-months by
    distinguishing people from inanimate objects and by communicating their needs through fussy behaviour or crying
  • signs of feeling estranged when they do not recognize a person by about 6-months
  • behaviours by 9-months that will attempt to engage people (smiling, making eye contact, "baby-talk", touching)
  • trials of imitating speech through gestures facial expressions communication emotion like surprise or fear
  • the comprehension of language by eighteen to twenty-four-months where they show understanding of simple words of caregivers and begin to use words themselves to express thoughts and emotions
Parents can enhance their infant's emotional intelligence by modeling effective communication and positive social behaviour. In doing this, a child will grow to read the social landscape and understand the rules for how to behave, cooperate, share, compromise and manage intense emotions.
Here are some ways in which to model effective social communication:
  • Be an effective listener: with your eyes, ears and heart. Notice your child's posture, facial expressions and body movements. Attune to what they are communicating to you through their gestures, cries and coos and respond accordingly
  • Keep your expectations realistic and age appropriate. A child's ability to communicate appropriately and know how to act in a particular situation will develop as he/she does. Parents need to guide their children on how to behave in acceptable ways, keeping in mind how young/old they are
  • Use kinesthetic (body senses) experiences to teach cooperative play. Get down on the child's level and play with him/her. Use toys, puppets and stuffed animals to role-play different social scenarios
  • Determine your child's comfort with closeness, eye contact and touch. Use this information to decide how to approach your child. If your child is not a "cuddler" by nature, find less intrusive ways of providing touch (even the least affection baby still needs touch: holding his/hand, rubbing the back or stroking the scalp)
  • Give feedback by labeling a child's feelings: "Oh you sound sad; that is very frustrating I know!" "You are a very excited happy baby!"
  • Reinforce positive communication attempts and appropriate social behaviour with praise, encouragement and a heartfelt smile. Discourage inappropriate behaviour with a clear expression of your feelings
To become an effective communicator, listener and develop social competencies, children require wide-ranging education that needs to start as early as possible.

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