Child, Family, Family Life, Parenting, Parenting, Toddler

Social skills: children learn primarily from parents

Social skills: children learn primarily from parents

How do children get through life well? This is a question parents ask themselves time and again. A real door opener to a happy and successful life is social competence. We explain how your child can acquire them.


Things work better together: having fun while playing. Standing up to insults. Preparing for exams. Together with others, we can even accomplish things that would be impossible to do alone, such as building a tree house. To get along well and successfully in life, we need family and other people from an early age. An important key to a happy and successful life is social competence.

Those who are socially competent can build and maintain positive relationships with others and resolve conflicts. The term social competence therefore refers to a person who can stand up for his own wishes and needs. At the same time, he recognizes and takes into account the wishes and needs of others. Social competence is someone who, on the one hand, can pursue his own goals, but on the other hand, can also resolve conflicts and adapt.

A child learns social skills at home

Parents give children a great and important gift when they teach them social skills at home in the family. Little ones learn best from good role models. Because they observe the big ones very closely and imitate them, as the Canadian psychologist Albert Bandura discovered back in the 1960s. Since then, science has called this phenomenon learning on a model. The children learn how social skills work when the family members interact socially with one another.

Parents with a baby should pay close attention to the needs of the little one and meet them. If it is hungry, feed it or give it the bottle. If it’s tired, they rock it to sleep. When the diaper is full, it is changed. In addition, they comfort it when it cries. They also cuddle with him to convey security. And they introduce rituals to provide security in everyday life.

But socially competent mothers and fathers also know that it is important not only to have empathy for their baby. The ability to perceive one’s own emotions and needs and to take them seriously is also important. “Of course, parents have to take care of the child and look after him,” says psychologist Rahel Pfiffner from the parent emergency call. “But they shouldn’t forget themselves.” This not only prevents exhaustion , but also teaches the offspring right from the start: It is important to take care of yourself and also of others. The foundation for teamwork has been laid.


Two examples of how social skills can be taught

Example 1: Jan and Ulla like to play often with their three-year-old daughter Maike. But sometimes they also want to have time for themselves. Then they say: «Maike, I know you would like to play with me. But I don’t want to do that now because I need a while to rest after a hard day’s work. I’ll play with you later.” They show that they take their own need for rest seriously. But they also show Maike that they understand her wish to play with her mother or father and promise her that it will be fulfilled.

Example 2:Two-year-old Jan is standing on a stepladder. He cuts a cucumber into pieces with a not very sharp knife. Because today we have a salad. “We want to involve Jan in the housework as early as possible,” says Sabine. “Not just because Jan likes to take part. But because we are a community in which everyone should contribute.»

Promote the child socially through upbringing at eye level

A prerequisite for imparting social competence to a child is therefore to behave socially oneself. Acting in a socially competent manner means being on an equal footing with others – including your own child. So don’t talk down to him, don’t make announcements and don’t make threats . Not doing so does not mean that a child can decide as much as an adult. But it means that you take it seriously and importantly. You can do this by being open to your own feelings and trying to understand the child. At the same time, the parents formulate their own I-messages. The skills of healthy communication in dealing with small and big ones are taught in books and parenting courses.

Dealing with peers as good encouragement

No child is born as a person with social skills. It is a skill that the child acquires as it develops. Social skills must be trained well into old age. Playing with other children is a particularly intensive training for children. Friendships  offer space to try out behaviors and test their effects. How does the other person behave when I get really angry? How does the game develop if I embark on an idea that doesn’t convince me at first? At the same time, the child learns that it is easier to assert interests together. So much teamwork makes you strong.


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