In the words of Maria Montessori: “What is social life if not the solving of social problems, behaving properly and pursuing aims acceptable to all? Sitting side-by-side and hearing someone else talk.” To know when to actively listen, to show empathy, and to be able to kindly disagree are all soft skills that are highly prized in today’s world. When children master social skills from a young age, they will be much more confident and independent.
But how do you teach social skills to young children? We’ve got some tips to help you out.
Grace, Courtesy, and Social Skills
Whether you’re new to the Montessori method or have been familiar with the philosophy for many years, you’ve most likely heard of grace and courtesy before. In the Montessori classroom, grace and courtesy involves teaching children how to be polite. Fishtown Montessori takes a special interest in giving young children the tools they need to adhere to social norms.
This is why a typical Montessori classroom isn’t as chaotic as a traditional preschool or kindergarten. Lessons in grace and courtesy are the reason why Montessori children conduct themselves with poise, why they never run around frantically. They have learned that the classroom is a space for exploration, practice, and concentration.
Seven Tips For Teaching Social Skills
Since your home is not like a Montessori classroom, though, does that mean the same lessons won’t work for you? Don’t worry. By modeling polite behaviors and giving your child space and respect, teaching social skills won’t be as difficult as it may seem. Here are seven tips to help you out:
Every morning, students are greeted by their teachers at Fishtown Montessori with a big good morning. At the end of the day, we tell one another goodbye. It’s important that the teachers make eye contact with each child when they say these greetings. You can do the same at home or when out in public.
Teach children how to give the appropriate greetings. For instance, if it’s customary, they should know how to respond to a handshake and how to greet their peers with kind words.
2. Table Manners
During mealtime, work on table manners. You can do this at dinner, when everyone is gathered around the table. Model the appropriate behaviors to your child while you eat, such as keeping your mouth closed while chewing. When you need something passed from across the table, ask politely, and use the word “please.” If someone offers you something, say “yes, please” or “no, thank you.” Be sure to include your child, as well.
As your child’s motor skills develop and they can handle utensils, model the correct way to hold each one and what each one does. Show them the appropriate use for napkins, too.
The best way to teach your children how to listen is to give them your attention when they speak. Listen calmly and respectfully. Don’t interrupt them while they are talking but do ask questions to help them develop critical thinking skills. Your children will see this as appropriate behavior and do the same.
Giving and receiving compliments with grace is an important skill. It’s also essential, however, that you don’t focus solely on someone’s outer appearance. The right kind of compliments encourage character growth, such as “It was so nice of you to help your friend tie their shoes,” or “Thank you for putting so much effort into cleaning the room today,” or “I saw you having fun in your class and it made me smile.”
Not only does this help your child figure out which actions are positive, it makes them feel good, too.
5. Emotional Intelligence
Children need to be self-aware, to know how to talk about their emotions, and why they feel the way they do. Teach your child the names of the emotions they feel and help them figure out why they are reacting a certain way. For example, if a child gets angry with their sibling, teach them ways for managing their anger in a more positive way. Show them not to take their raw emotions out on others.
Another example would be in the playground. If your child takes a toy from someone else and refuses to give it back right away, don’t lose patience. Rather, ask your child how they would feel if the same thing happened to them. Explain to them that their actions right then made the other child feel the way they would and that they need to return the toy to correct their mistake.
6. Conflict Resolution & Apologizing
Children are given the words and opportunities at school and at home to resolve conflicts. Knowing how to actively listen, to ask questions, and to empathize will help them respond better to any conflicts that arise—and they will. As a parent, don’t rush to break up a conflict right away. Let your child work out issues on their own, to the best of their ability.
7. Group Behavior
The Montessori classroom encourages collaboration instead of competition. The teachers don’t dictate who gets what item and when, and they don’t force children to give up an activity when they are concentrating. That is up to the children to decide. This models behaviors seen at work or elsewhere in life, giving children the skills to be patient and understanding within a group.
Looking for a Montessori School in Philadelphia?
One of the best ways to teach your children social skills is to let them play and work together with others. During this time, your child can figure out what it means to interact well with their peers, to communicate more naturally, and to share. This can’t just happen with their siblings. At Fishtown Montessori, your child has time to explore, to play, learn, interact, and build social skills with others. We give your child opportunities to develop Grace and Courtesy, and to become an emotionally intelligent person.
Learn more about Fishtown Montessori—our programs and teachers—by giving us a call today.