After mentioning in my previous article that I was very ill-prepared for starting school due to being distracted by social worries and concerns about how I’d “fit in”; I felt a good follow on article would be one that expands on Social Development, what it is, and how it “nurtures” the child.
Ok, Social Development is defined by www.kidsmatter.edu.org as; “involves learning the values, knowledge and skills that enable children to relate to others effectively and to contribute in positive ways to family, school and the community.” I don’t now think it was because I didn’t possess any of these skills that I struggled with so much socially; it’s because I had a deep-rooted sense of inadequacy that held me back from advancing in social situations. As mentioned in my previous article I think this had a lot to do with the negative approach that my parents, especially my Mum, took to discipline. Interestingly it wasn’t only social situations where I felt held back; it had a “knock-on effect” in pretty much all other areas of development. So I want to show you exactly why social development is sooo important and how you can avoid this with your child. From a “Family Team” perspective; social development is where the “Team” aspect really comes into fruition!
Very interestingly even as a pre-school aged child I remember feeling very aware of how held back I felt; though I didn’t completely know why. Having worked through this extensively I really want to help child learn SQ, or social intelligence so they feel able to excel in any type of situation, social, or otherwise. Social Intelligence goes one step further and is defined by Wikipedia as being; “the capability to effectively navigate and negotiate complex social relationships and environments.” This is Social Development at its most successful and highest point. People with the ability to do this are the ones at the Top of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and the ones who are able to turn any situation to their advantage. Hence, in my mind, this makes SQ and Social Development very Important.
It’s relevant here to expand a bit on “My Story” so you can see exactly why Social Development became so important to me:
As I’ve mention in previous articles I’ve always been very sensitive to Body Language, voice tone and the emotions of others. Because I subconsciously picked up on these so acutely, really, ideally a very “laid back” mother who only allowed “urgent situations” to “concern” her would have suited me as it would have enabled me to feel more relaxed and not have become so self-aware so quickly. Instead, as I’ve put forward before, I had a Mum who was the total opposite – a complete worrier about every minor thing!! I feel it’s important to mention here that although a person can’t help being “the way their made”, they can become more Aware firstly about having a “worrying characteristic” and second; what triggers their worry. This is what my Mum struggled to do. I greatly picked up on her worrying and it contributed vastly to a poor self-image because both subconsciously and consciously I was thinking; “Why does she feel the need to worry about me? What’s “wrong” with me that she feels the need to be so concerned??” When you combine this with how my Mum felt it necessary at the time to deal with any “poor behaviour” – that was to tell me what I shouldn’t be doing and what it would result in for me if I continued – it’s obvious to see how this led to a very poor self-image; not very empowering. It’s also obvious how this is all the result of conflicting personality traits – not lack of love.
“My Story” leads very suitably into the one of the best ways you can encourage social development and that is to role-model it. If you role-model confident social interaction with other people your child/children will learn good social skills without you having to do anything else. Although I would encourage that you do actively teach them some of the more advanced social skills; this is more relevant for an older child. Even with the best role-modelling some of the more subtle skills may well be less obvious to your child through role-modelling alone. The best way to teach your child these useful extra tips – which even the best of us have had to learn – is through telling them the “story” of how you learnt it!! This saves sounding like you’re telling them what to do, as children experience this a lot at both home and school, and you can have a good giggle together. Another great social skill this will help give your child is the ability to laugh at yourself. I encourage this – with stories about how I “got it wrong” (!) – Very early on the children I’ve worked with are always very good at laughing at themselves. It’s worth noting here that people like other people who can laugh at themselves because it enables them to relax and be less concerned about saying anything that may cause upset.
Another really vital pointer I would like to give you when it comes to encourages good social skills in children is to set “Personal Boundaries” with them. By “Personal Boundaries” I mean give them an expectation of how they should behave towards you. For example I would greatly encourage you to “set” the “Personal Boundary” of expecting your children to speak to you politely. This may sound funny to you; “well of course they should speak to me politely??” – You’d be surprised how many times, even just around the supermarket, that I’ve heard children speak impolitely to their parents and the parent doesn’t say anything. I can illustrate this point with a story:
I know a family who didn’t set “Personal Boundaries” with their children and as a result, obviously the children could be very impolite towards their parents; if you’re not told it’s rude you don’t know and children come from nothing remember. In addition and this to me is perhaps worse, was that the eldest child set similar boundaries with his friends at school and would sometimes come home upset at how some of his friends hadn’t been very kind to him. I really think this story makes it clear that although he was, sadly, rude to his parents as a result of how they interacted with him, he set the “Personal Boundaries” with others that were role-modelled to him; had he been encouraged to have a higher expectation of how others should behave toward him, this would have served him better.
I’d really encourage you to want your children to know how to get on well with other people whether they like them, or not. Believe me; it’s a skill to be able to get on with people you don’t have so much “in common” with and those able to master it are definitely the most successful in life. This leads nicely in to highlighting the fact that if children have “less to worry about” socially at school, it’s automatically is going to support them academically. When you feel socially more confident, you are most likely to be more emotionally at ease too. Social development also supports physical development, as the children who have friends are the ones running around playing in the school playground. Take it from me, when you’ve had to learn all your social skills the “hard way” at the beginning you’re the one standing around watching, hoping that someone will invite you to play. Even with older children, if you have more friends, you’ll be out and about doing social things with them. This also supports a child’s language development s/he is obviously chatting more with friends and this will naturally help to increase vocabulary. Lastly, spiritual development is also nurtured by social development because a child with well-developed SQ learns more quickly to feel comfortable socially with how they “fit in” to wider society.
This leads nicely into the point I would also like to make in regards to “fitting in” verses “standing out”! Obviously I did more of the later; I was never very good at being a “crowd follower”! Although I would say it definitely serves to a degree to know “how” to “fit in”. Please note that knowing “how” doesn’t mean you always have to choose to fit in. I do actually have another story to illustrate this; first I would just like to go into the matter in a little more detail. When I didn’t know how to “fit in” as a young child I was a lot more shy and withdrawn. It took until my time at university before I really began to master the art of “fitting in” more and thus feeling more comfortable with myself. When you know how to “fit in”, standing out becomes a choice; whereas, before I mastered the art of “fitting in”, I stood out because I couldn’t see any other choice but to stand out regardless of how comfortable I felt. No one wants to encourage their child to be a total “sheep” and go along with the crowd regardless of whether it’s a healthy choice. Knowing how to “fit in” means you’ve mastered the crucial “social norms” of society. Can you see the difference??
Ok, now for that story I promised you! It doesn’t illustrate the above point exactly; however it does illustrate the point of “fitting in” verses “standing out”. I will have to tell it in two parts because the first part involves me as a little girl and the second, an observation I made whilst finishing my Montessori qualification.
Me: When I was about three and a half (yes, I can remember back that young!) I remember on occasions being in the playground at Pre-School thinking about some of the other children’s behaviour; “that’s so silly, I would never do that”!!
My Observation as a Montessori Teacher: I was watching a little girl in the playground; she wasn’t necessarily the most popular child, though she definitely had friends, (that is relevant). She was playing with some other children and I can’t quite remember how, she stopped playing with them. I think the other children may have decided not to play with her any more. So for about a minute she was on her own. I decided to give it a moment longer before going up to her to see how she responded to this. I actually thought briefly back to myself at her age and wanted to see how she dealt with the situation. Very interestingly another little girl, who’s “game” had “bought her” close to the girl now on her own, “waved her arms up and down and did a funny little jiggle and ran off doing this making and “er, er, er, er” sound”!! The little girl on her own did the exact same thing and ran after her; she was then just automatically included in the new game with the children the second little girl had been playing with!!
What is “so” interesting about this story is I thought to myself; “Gosh, as a child I would have observed that and though, that’s so silly, I would never do that”!! However, as an adult I thought; “You’d think the more socially advanced child would be the one who recognises that it’s quite a silly choice of action. However, who “fits in” and has friends? – The child who made the choice to be a bit silly!!” This to me underlines the point I made in my previous article about the importance of the uninhibited staged of development. Because I was so self-conscious, my choices were very inhibited and this could come across rather unnatural and thus made me less likeable as a child, (can you believe that?!).
Ultimately I would definitely say that to achieve holistic success you would want your child to learn to feel comfortable standing out of the crowd. To learn to do this in a respected and admired way is to first learn the social norms and values of the society in that they live. The way you can help your children to learn this is to encourage them to do things that are outside their comfort-zone. It’s the times we have the courage to step outside of our comfort-zones that are the times we truly stand out, are able to expand our consciousness and “shine our inner light”.
Before bringing this article to a close I would just like to touch on a few other points that I feel are relevant. First, I want to put forward that “feral children” sadly remind us that because children come from nothing, it’s easy for them to be misled. So please pay close attention and when unsure, observe; what exactly are they doing and how best can you help them? Paying Attention is also a very important thing to encourage children to do themselves. I know of children not encourage to pay attention to how they’re coming across and how they thus should respond and again, they can get upset sometimes when they think other children are not being so kind to them. In actual fact the real issue is that they have not learnt to pay attention to how their actions are being perceived and thus don’t realise that the other children’s apparent unkindness is a result of their frustration of this.
The last couple of points I want to make are first; when it comes to “social hierarchy”, please teach children that it’s Temporary!! This gives them the power and choice to move “up, or down the social ladder” thus making it more about hard work and achievement giving you a higher social status, rather than “birth-rights”.
Lastly I have an interesting point about “promotion at work” to mention for the benefit of “Mum” and “Dad”, seeing as work is also a big part of your life and it’s also what enables you to support and provide for your “Family Team”. Apparently a person who attends most, if not all of the “socials” at their workplace is 17 times more likely to be promoted than those who don’t. The reason for this is that during socials, everyone, including “the Boss” is more relaxed and has “removed” their “formal work mask”! Also conversation is more personal and you can really get to know your “Boss” on a deeper level, (i.e. not just superficially). It’s pure human-nature to promote someone you’ve come to “know, like and trust” more on a deeper level.
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