Teaching Social Skills: Empathy and Assertiveness

· April 16, 2019
Many parents and teachers wonder whether social skills are something that can be taught or learned like other values. Luckily, we now know that we can instil social skills in children, even in the most introverted.

The act of teaching social skills to children contributes to emotional health and good conflict resolution. The basis of these competencies are empathy and assertiveness, rooted in a profound sense of self-esteem.

Most importantly, teachers and caregivers can help students acquire and refine these social skills. The first step for teaching social skills is for the adults to also put such skills into practice.

Thus, when carrying out the recommendations suggested in this article, every parent and caregiver should also reassess their own ways of engaging with the people around them.

What is involved in teaching social skills to children?

It’s obvious that children use distinct modes of coping with others, whether they be at home or anywhere where there are groups of children interacting.

Take a few moments each day to reflect together as a group about some of the ways we choose to cope in society. This will make teaching social skills to children a really worthwhile endeavour.

1. What are social skills and why do we need them?

A good way to introduce this subject to children is to analyze how social skills help to improve our collective lives.

Depending on the age of the children, you can carry out this step using games, stories, film, or even assigned reading for preadolescent children.

2. Choose just one ability to introduce at a time

It doesn’t do much good to introduce a whole slew of social skills all at once. The ideal approach is to choose one skill to focus on at a time, and then concentrate your activities or lesson plan on that one skill.

For example, dedicate a week to thinking about “what it means to share and that others share with me.”  In this way, what the caregiver covers is assimilated more deeply and each child develops their own personal way to apply these capabilities.

3. Reflect deeply on each ability to interact socially

There are different ways of teaching social skills to children. The key is that it’s the children themselves who should reflect on this, autonomously. They should be allowed to express their opinions free from judgment.

One good exercise is to use a table with two columns. The column on one side lists each social ability, and in the other column, you can list the examples of social practices that the children themselves propose.

Teaching Social Skills: Empathy and Assertiveness

4. Practice what they learn

Granted you should adjust the modes of presenting information so they’re suitable for each age group, practicing what has been learned is the best way to really absorb and strengthen social skills. Role-playing, and question-and-answer games are excellent resources for that.

5. Pause and reflect

Taking a pause after learning each social skill gives children the opportunity to put what they learned into action. In that way, when you come across instances where a child actively uses a social skill he or she was taught, you can reflect together on the ways the social abilities were applied.

It’s useful to invite children to reflect on their own bahaviors. They can also examine their thoughts both as an individual or together as a group.

Furthermore, social skills like the capacity to negotiate are complex but they have a very positive impact on children’s development, even in the classroom at school.

Teaching social skills requires positive self-image and assertiveness

Another aspect used to teach social skills to children has to do with the image they construct of themselves. Every boy and girl should know how to value themselves, love themselves, and defend their rights and interests.

If there are doubts about how to teach love for oneself, we can summarize the best approach as: “Be the best example you can be.” It’s also good to consider the following:

  • It’s not helpful to compare children to one another
  • Children need quality time
  • Children need different opportunities to practice their skills
  • Their efforts and strengths should be recognized
  • Their autonomy should be encouraged

In short, being assertive and self-confident has to do with ethical principles that require valuing your own rights and recognizing the rights of others. Indeed, for very young children, valuing their own rights usually entails a sudden loud scream that scares the offender.

Teaching Social Skills: Empathy and Assertiveness

As children acquire social skills, it’s good to reflect on the importance of being assertive and having a positive self-image. Having control over your own emotions requires the ability to be assertive. In addition, self-assurance is also important for engaging in conflict resolution, negotiation, and persuasion.

In conclusion, teaching social skills to children is also a challenge for adults. To begin this learning process early and from home is the best gift you can give them.

The fundamental values are teaching children to be autonomous and to engage in respectful dialogue. Moreover, teaching social skills to children also requires carefully working with them to identify, express and channel their emotions.