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How To Teach Appropriate Social Skills

One of the most important aspects of a person's learning is their social development. And I know in our society today social development is a top priority. So, how do you teach appropriate social skills to children? Because there are social skills all over the place. Some are appropriate and some are not. My father was a public school teacher for his whole career until he retired. He still teaches at University. He's a smart guy. Love you dad. 

Anyway, so you can imagine that when I told my dad that I was going to home school my children, starting with my first son, who would never be to school yet that he might have wondered if I was okay. Because I was one of those students that were top of my class. I did really well in school. I succeeded socially. Really succeeded socially. 

I was in student government, I edited the newspaper. I was... I had leads in the plays. I was on the sports teams. I had lots of friends. Socially, it seemed like I was a success. Why would I ever want to do anything different with my own children than what I've done myself? So, it didn't surprise me very much that my father said to me, "Okay. 

What about their social?" Well, I was prepared for that. And I said, "You know dad? Spencer and I have talked about it. And we have decided that we have a different idea of what proper social development is. Then what a lot of other people might think." For instance, we don't think bullying is appropriate social development. We don't think that teasing is appropriate for social development. 

We don't think that sexting is appropriate for social development. Of course, there wasn't sexting back then. But I gave them a list of a whole bunch of things. And of course, we don't think sexting is proper social development. So anyway, I said, "Dad, we really care a lot about social and we're going to do a great job with it. I promise." He said, "Okay, but I'm not sure he thought this social experiment with his grandchildren was so wise. Well, time goes by. 

Within about a year, my father was saying to me, "Wow, I wish I would have home school, my children. Your children are so well-adjusted. They're so confident. They can talk to adults of all ages." My children have friends that are every age. Friends that are the same age, and friends that are adults, and friends that are younger than them. 

I remember when my oldest son was in his teen years. He said, "Mom, is it weird that some of my very best friends are 50 years old?" And I laughed and said, "No. He said, "Because they are. The friends I admired the most and that I trust the most are the 50, 60, 70-year-old men that I see in a barbershop course with. I value them almost more than anybody else." That's who he learned from. He learned how to become a man from men. 

That was so social development. He learned social skills from people who already perfected them over the course of their lives. Instead of people who were just learning social skills themselves. So that brings me to the question, what is the best way to learn appropriate social skills? There are multiple different ways that a person can learn social skills. 

You can learn them from the media. You can learn them from peers. Your own age. Or you could learn them from your family. Hmmm. Which way would you like your children to learn social skills? Just so you know, children usually always turn out just as social as their parents are. So, if you have a certain social skill that shines, your children will probably have a chance of inheriting that same social skill from you. 

They'll inherit it by watching you, observing that social skills success. If you make friends easily, your children will learn how to make friends easily. If you communicate openly, your children will learn how to communicate openly. Obviously, there are personalities and such that can factor into some social development. But for the most part, as social as the parent, it is just as social as their children that they're going to turn out. 

I remember bringing up to my father, "You know dad, everybody always knows those weird homeschoolers. Just look them up. They're so funny." And it's true. There are weird home-schoolers. And we laugh at ourselves. But aren't there also really weird public schoolers and really weird private schoolers and charter schoolers and whatever that kind of schoolers there are? Yeah, absolutely. In fact, I remember some of those weird students that I shared a classroom with when I was going to school. And when you meet their parents, you go, "Oh, that's why. 

Because their parents have a little bit of a social audit too. That's just how it goes. So, one of the best things that we can remember when we're teaching our children to appropriate social skills is if we have appropriate skills, they are much more likely to have appropriate social skills too. Besides example, there are multiple other things that you can do to teach our children to appropriate social skills. 

First, observe them when they are in social settings. Especially because our children were home-schooled. And they were used to talking to all kinds of people like the clerk at the store as well as the neighbor's baby. Not just children they're age. We wanted to make sure that when they did communicate with children their age, they were going to be successful. 

So, we did this weird thing. Why not do one other weird thing as a peck family. And we decided to be present when our children were launching into the next social phase. I know a whole bunch of people did not get it probably. They probably felt we were overprotective in some way. Or maybe even that we didn't approve of the other adult leadership that was at the particular event our child went to. 

But that had nothing to do with it. We were just helping our children socially adjust and navigate things socially so that they would be the most successful. So what this meant was that we went to groups with our children. Usually, in our religion, children start going to groups really regularly when they're around the age of 12. 

So, as soon as our children turned 12 and we're going to start attending these youth groups, we decided that Spencer would go with the boys and I would go with the girls. When they were in those first couple of years of attending the youth groups. The reason was simple. We would go observe how our child behaves socially with the other children. And then afterward, we would discuss it, give them pointers, help them navigate things socially. 

If they found someone was bullying or not being kind or were saying mean things to them, we could also help them understand that child and plan how to handle future confrontations like that calmly and effectively. This is what we did to help them. We went to camps with them. Scout camps, girls camps. All that kind of stuff. 

Specifically to teach our children social skills. And we didn't turn our children over to other adults or other groups of people until we were very secure with their social development. I know a lot of people probably didn't get that. They probably thought we were strange. But we were. So, there you go. Being weird is okay especially if it's part of the deliberate plan. And we had a deliberate plan. 

Another way to teach appropriate social skills to children is to make sure that you always value the contributions of all the people around you. Value the contributions of the people in your family. Value your neighbors and what they can contribute to your society. Value all of the people. Don't spend your time talking bad about others, gossiping, pointing out all the flaws. 

Sure with children, you should talk about some of the negative things so they don't make similar mistakes that you see around you and society. But it should always be done with the tone of love, understanding, and value if you do have to discuss a person's mistakes that their making. If you value another person, then your children will learn to value people too. 

If they value people, they're going to make friends more. People can tell when someone cares about you. They ask you questions. They listen when you're talking. Valuing another person is a great social skill to have. Part of valuing people involves listening like I mentioned. And a person who learns how to listen well also will stop thinking about what they want to tell. 

That's important. A good listener just listens even if that means afterward it's followed by silence. So, I teach my children that when are listening to another person to focus intently on what that other person is really saying. Ask clarifying questions and then just wait to see where the conversations seem to turn. But do not feel obligated to have to say something just because of their silence or just because that other person was talking. 

Listening also helps you get dates. And I told my children this: "What is the goal of social development anyway?" For most people that end all be all goal is to find that person they want to share their lives with. Sure it helps us succeed in business and socially in a few other ways. But truly, it's to find them a meaningful relationship with another person. I've always told my children, "if you listen and you ask another person questions, if you are interested in that person and you want to get a second date with that person, you get that other person talking about themselves a lot. 

Then they'll really enjoy your company." So, that relates to valuing and listening. Asking questions makes people feel important. Appropriate social skills don't necessarily come naturally. This means parents need to pre-teach appropriate social skills to their children. So before, Paige would go to (say) church activity or she was going to be with her friends, we might talk about what she could expect there. And then what skills she might need to use if certain things happen. That's pre-teaching. I want my children to know the skills they need to succeed. 

One of those skills that are so important for proper social development is disagreeing appropriately. We have 4 basic skills that we teach with the Teaching Self-government Parenting model. The 4th of those skills is disagreeing appropriately. It's not just for parents and children to use together but it's also for children to use with children. 

Parents to use with parents. It's just a social skill for everybody to use. If you know how to disagree appropriately, you get your way more. And who doesn't want that? So, when our arguments occur, if they've got that skill under their belt, they're ready. Probably one of the biggest mistakes that people make socially is they cross over boundaries that they shouldn't. 

They start voicing opinions about things that aren't really their business. Or maybe they start to touch people like they don't want to be touched. I remember I did this in high school. It was. I would walk down the hall... Maybe it was junior high. Now, I think it was science school. I walked down the hall and I would just sort of slug people in the belly. I don't know why I did this. I just... And someone started it. 

I think someone did it to me. I didn't mind it. And so then I just started doing it to other people. But guess what? They didn't like it. And I didn't know they didn't like it. Until finally somebody said to me, "Why do you keep hitting me in the stomach. I don't like it." And I went, "Oh, no. How many people... How many friends have I now hit in the stomach?" And it wasn't like hard. It was just a little soft kind of like I-like-you kind of a tap. it wasn't appropriate. And people didn't appreciate it. 

There was a boundary line I should not cross there. Every boundary line is essentially a no answer. If you're not supposed to get in somebody else's business, tell yourself no. Drop the subject. Don't think about whatever it was you were going to say anymore. If you are going to touch someone but you know you shouldn't because there's a boundary line there, give yourself a no answer, drop the subject, don't think about it anymore. Sit on your hands if you have to. 

Boundaries are key to social success. If a person is going to have appropriate social skills, they need to know where their boundary lines are. Parents are going to have to define that for their children. Because it's hard to figure those things out just like it was hard for me to figure out who wanted to be punched and who didn't. 

Another vital social skill that a person needs to be taken seriously with their friend's colleagues, family members is calmness. The way that we communicate with each other sets the tone for our whole relationship. If we want people to care about what our children say about what we say, we've got to be calm.

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