Successful Kids Have Strong Social Skills

Social skills are essential for raising happy and successful children. Now there is even more evidence to support this statement…

Social Skills

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Social Interactions can Enhance Creativity

Social interactions can help us to be more creative, and creativity is one of the most important qualities we can have. It has been said many times – creativity does not exist in a vacuum. Indeed, according to Dr Muthukrishna’s research, creativity exists in the collective mind.

To be an innovator, it’s better to be social rather than smart.

There’s no doubt that there are variations in people’s raw skills, but what predicts the difference between a Steve Jobs and a Joe Bloggs is actually their exposure to new ideas that are wonderful and different.

If you want to be more creative the best thing you can do is to talk to people who disagree with you.

– Muthukrishna

It’s a chain reaction – to help children be more creative, they need social interactions for which they will need social skills. They also need to be able to listen to the ideas of people who disagree with them and be willing to turn these ideas around in their heads. This is challenging because we have a strong tendency to shut down opposing ideas from the start without hearing them or considering them.

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” – Aristotle

Strong Social Skills in Kindergarten Improves Chances of Future Success

A 20 year study published in the American Journal of Public Health reveals that children with strong social skills in kindergarten (such as a willingness to share or be helpful) are more likely to have greater career success in adulthood. The study followed 800 children from kindergarten to adulthood. Data was collected on the children’s social competence in kindergarten and their career outcomes in adulthood.

Key Research Findings:

For every one-point increase in a child’s social competence score in kindergarten, he/she was:

  • Twice as likely to attain a college degree in early adulthood;
  • 54% more likely to earn a high school diploma; and
  • 46% more likely to have a full-time job at the age of 25.

For every one-point decrease in a child’s social competence score in kindergarten, he/she had:

  • 64% higher chance of having spent time in juvenile detention;
  • 67% higher chance of having been arrested by early adulthood;
  • 52% higher rate of recent binge drinking and 82% higher rate of recent marijuana usage; and
  • 82% higher chance of being in or on a waiting list for public housing.

Source: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Helping Children Develop Strong Social Skills

“Helping children develop social and emotional skills is one of the most important things we can do to prepare them for a healthy future.” – Kristin Schubert, program director at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Even though we know that social skills are important – as essential as reading, writing and math – it does not get the same level of attention. Why is that? Is it because we don’t think it is a problem until children are getting into trouble at school for delinquent behaviour; is it because we think that social skills are something all children eventually learn along the way; or is it because we don’t know how to help them?

If a child is having trouble with math, we can help them with extra math classes or hiring a tutor. The same goes for literacy and other subjects at school. But when it comes to social skills, it’s not so straight forward. So what can we do to help our children develop their social skills? The following are some methods that may help.

Reading Literary Fiction Books may Enhance Social Skills

Studies support the finding that reading fictional works, specifically literary fiction, engages the part of the brain involved in empathy and imagination. Researchers believe that this may enhance social skills.

Reading Literary Fiction Improves Theory of Mind – Science, 2013:

…reading literary fiction led to better performance on tests of affective Theory of Mind* (ToM) and cognitive ToM compared with reading nonfiction, popular fiction, or nothing at all. Specifically, these results show that reading literary fiction temporarily enhances ToM.

* Theory of Mind refers to the brain’s ability to recognise that other people may have different thoughts and feelings from ours.

Reading fiction and reading minds: The role of simulation in the default network – Social Cognitive and Effective Neuroscience, 2015:

Findings from neuroscience show that reading and social cognition both recruit the default network, a network which is known to support our capacity to simulate hypothetical scenes, spaces, and mental states… Analyses also demonstrated that participants who read fiction most often also showed the strongest social cognition performance.

What is literary fiction?

The definition for literary fiction is a work that holds literary merit. That usually means it is likely to have won some literary award. Literary fiction is also usually more about the characters and is “real world”. HuffPost sums it up best:

In essence, the best Genre Fiction contains great writing, with the goal of telling a captivating story to escape from reality. Literary Fiction is comprised of the heart and soul of a writer’s being, and is experienced as an emotional journey through the symphony of words, leading to a stronger grasp of the universe and of ourselves.

If you’re still struggling for titles, you can check out the best literary fiction list from Goodreads.

Play is Important for Social and Emotional Development

Play helps children increase their social competence and emotional maturity by allowing them to:

  • Practice both verbal and nonverbal communication skills by negotiating roles, trying to gain access to ongoing play, and appreciating the feelings of others.
  • Respond to their peers’ feelings while waiting for their turn and sharing materials and experiences.
  • Experiment with roles of the people in their home, school, and community by coming into contact with the needs and wishes of others.
  • Experience others’ points of view by working through conflicts about space, materials, or rules positively.
  • Express and cope with difficult feelings and experiences. Through the action of play, children can safely explore situations and emotions they might not want to face in real life, such as: “dark” emotions, experiences that frighten them, or doing things they are not allowed.

The Impact of Music on Social and Personal Development

Children who learn music have better communication and social interaction skills because it helps children develop empathy and improve their ability to interpret facial expressions and body language.

Music has been linked to the capacity to increase emotional sensitivity. The recognition of
emotions in music is related to emotional intelligence. – The Power of Music

It should be added that these positive effects of music are dependent on the child enjoying learning music. In other words, forcing children to pick up learning music when they hate it probably won’t do much for them from a social and personal development perspective.

Social Skills Interventions

The follow presentation by Kristine Strong on Social Skills Interventions may be intended for children with special needs but the activities are recommended can also be used with any child.

More ways to build social skills:

  • Neuro-Dramatic Play
  • Mindfulness Meditation – children who were taught mindfulness skills showed a 24% improvement in social behaviors. They were less aggressive and more empathetic and optimistic than peers without the training.
  • Sports – kids who are active in sports have better emotional management and social skills.

Emotional Intelligence: Children Need Empathy to be Successful

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  1. […] Studies demonstrate that social skills enhance our children’s chances of success. But even though we know that social skills are important – as essential as reading, writing and math – it does not get the same level of attention. Is it because we don’t think it is a problem until children are getting into trouble at school for delinquent behaviour; is it because we think that social skills are something all children eventually learn along the way; or is it because we don’t know how to help them? […]