5 Ways to Expand Your Child’s Social Skills

Mighty Mommy shares five ways you can help your child expand his own social graces which will help him grow into a confident young adult.

Cheryl Butler
5-minute read
Episode #431
5 Ways to Expand Your Child’s Social Skills

#3.  Encourage Kindness

Some of the best opportunities to teach appropriate social skills happen during every day play time. Compassion starts with what's acceptable and what's not.  For instance, during a play date between your son and another little boy, you overhear you son call his pal a "booger head." Sure, it's not a terribly offensive phrase and may cause you to chuckle, but rather than overlooking the incident, intervene immediately and let him know that being kind to others is the rule and hurtful words are not allowed. If you get involved right away, you are sending an important message that kindness trumps everything and that name calling is not going to happen.

#4.  Engage in Conversation

Children develop relationships with peers by interacting with them and the first opportunity for this to happen is by greeting someone.  This can be something short and sweet such as “Hi!” or “How’s it going?” but equally as important is the facial expressions we use or our tone of voice.

For extremely shy kids or children with developmental disabilities, this can prove to be quite a task. It’s not so much what you say but how you say it that lets people know you are glad to see them.  Taking advantage of any opportunity to help your child initiate conversations is a great way to build her confidence around both her peers and people she doesn’t know very well.

For instance, if you are grocery shopping and see one of her classmates, you can prompt your child from behind the scenes to make the first move and say hello. Once she does this, if she struggles to carry on a conversation you can intervene and say, “Annie tells me that you have a fun field trip coming up to the science museum. Are you looking forward to that?”  This gives her peer the opportunity to engage with both of you as well as teaches your daughter how she can find something they have in common—the school field trip—to use as a conversation starter. Sometimes children cannot think of anything to talk about. When you can’t think of anything to say, it can be good to ask the other person a question. The question can be about them or what they think about a movie or the sports team everyone is talking about.

Continue role playing these scenarios with your child whenever the opportunity permits.  I used to do this with my speech-delayed kids to help them engage in conversation with other family members, neighbors, kids at the playground and even their grandparents.  Good conversation skills take practice.  See Also:  6 Ways to Improve Family Communication

#5.  Teach Consideration

One of my favorite social rules for all my children is the golden rule, “Treat others as you would like them to treat you.”  Kids who are considerate of others are socially aware of not only how to be kind to others, but they tend to have better social skills such as being polite, using good manners, and realizing that they need to respect themselves as well as other human beings.

In How to Raise a Socially Intelligent Child, Dr. Laura Markham explains that parents need to teach their children that people are important: “All parents have to choose their battles, so put up with messiness and dawdling if you must, but teach your child consideration for others. Model it for him early on, praise it, help him brainstorm to solve peer problems, and don't let your child intentionally or unintentionally disrespect another person. It you can't confront it as it happens without embarrassing your child, be sure to talk about it later. As kids get older, you may need to be very explicit about insisting that they acknowledge adults in their presence, as well as other kids. Often preteens and young adolescents need to be reminded of this, and to be given coaching on how to handle interactions that feel awkward to them.”

How do you help your child stay on his social game?  Please share your thoughts in the comments section at quickanddirtytips.com/mighty-mommy, post your ideas on the Mighty Mommy Facebook page. or email me at mommy@quickanddirtytips.com. Visit my family-friendly boards at Pinterest.com/MightyMommyQDT.

Be sure to sign up for the upcoming Mighty Mommy newsletter chock full of practical advice to make your parenting life easier and more enjoyable. 


About the Author

Cheryl Butler

Cheryl L. Butler is the mother of eight children. Her experiences with infertility, adoption, seven pregnancies, and raising children with developmental delays have helped her become a resource on the joys and challenges of parenting. Call the Mighty Mommy listener line at 401-284-7575 to ask a parenting question. Your call could be featured on the show!

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