Challenge of parenting

How to improve children’s social skills

Parents are the most influential model for their children who thus learn various social roles and skills, developing self-confidence. This means that if you are not tolerant, hardworking and sincere, peace loving and similar, you should not expect it from your children, either.

What are social skills, how are they manifested and what are the effects of various social skills?

It is not sufficient to tell children that they should be kind, generous and so on, to teach children social skills. Situations in which children can learn and acquire these skills have to be meaningful and pre-arranged. Neither is it sufficient to talk about what is not allowed and what they are doing wrong. On the contrary, it is extremely important to tell them when they have done something good.


1. Teaching your children, it is good to provide positive support (praise, reward, positive interest) for the behaviour which we want to foster, and stop and ignore the behaviour which we want to remove from our children’s behaviour repertoire. It is very important to acknowledge behaviour every time when the child manifests social skills.

2. Avoid punishments because it is a form of attention for children (we usually shout and are emotionally involved). For example, shy children should be praised and encouraged when making friends with peers and should be ignored when hiding from guests.

3. Parents should be role models, i.e. they should show the behaviour which their children will imitate and later acquire as their own. So, do not hit your children if you do not want them to do the same to others. They will deal with problems they may have with other people the same way they deal with their own problems.

4. If we listen to our children carefully and share their feelings, they will learn how to be empathetic.

5. Role play method is very efficient. E.g. if the child is shy, we can say ‘I am your best friend. We always play what I want and go where I want. Imagine you want to go to the cinema today because the film you want to see is on only today, and I want to go to the Zoo. Try to make me go to the cinema with you today.’ After the role play, child’s feelings during the play are analysed. If the child has not been successful, roles are switched so the child can see how s/he could have acted. After that, feelings and behaviour are analysed again.

6. It is important to raise children in a warm and supportive surrounding, always having some surprise for the moment when the child shows the desired behaviour and deserves positive attention.


Development of self-confidence is very important for success in social contacts. It is where you have the main role again.

1. Talk to your children frequently and try to understand what they are trying to accomplish and what is important to them.

2. Always answer children’s questions kindly, providing support and ask them questions as frequently as possible in order to create opportunity for them to find the answer themselves.

3. Do not inhibit your children, either regularly or for longer periods of time. Nor should you get involved in any argumentative discussion opposing them, especially during the normal negative phases (e.g. around the third or fifth year of age).

4. Provide opportunities for learning. It is more desirable let the children cook with you than just talk about it. Be a non-intrusive ‘councillor’. They will feel great when they themselves succeed in doing something. Do not forget to praise them when it happens.