Playground Politics: The Importance of Social Learning In 4 and 5 Year Olds

social-learningIf the term “social skills” sounds incongruent with the term “4 year-old” to you, you are not alone. Parenting a child around the ages of 4 and 5 can be extremely tiring, to say the least. Kids at this age are learning SO much, that sometimes, social learning can fall to the bottom of the barrel. I mean, who is going to worry about cooperative play when their child is still learning to use the potty?

In fact 4 year olds have a whole list of developmental milestones to work on. These are things like:

Learning to be away from parents without too much of a scene

  • Standing on one foot
  • Hopping
  • Somersaulting
  • Drawing
  • Tracing shapes
  • Dressing and undressing themselves
  • Using a fork and spoon
  • Learning their name and address
  • Remembering parts of stories
  • Speaking in sentences
  • Counting ten things
  • Learning more about colors
  • Understanding time

You see? This is an intense time for your child! He’s basically learning how to be a little person! But, even with all of these important tasks, he still needs to learn how to get along with others.

Children between the ages of 4 and 5 are capable of understanding empathy, although they may not often act like it! Therefore, it’s up to the adults around them to teach them this important skill.

So, how do we teach empathy in children?

Be The Change

Research suggests that children who have their emotional needs met at home have an easier time demonstrating empathy toward others. Studies also show that children are more likely to be empathetic toward others when their parents have been active in helping them learn problem solving techniques.

Basically, if you want your child to show empathy to others, you’ve gotta walk the walk. And while we’re on the subject, allow us to digress a little and tell you our biggest parental pet peeve: Parents who believe that they need to use “tough love,” and tell their kids to “just get over it,” when they have a problem. Hint: This will not make your child behave better; instead it may just make your kid act out more to receive the support they need. Don’t do it!!

Free Their Minds

Another way to help your children develop empathy is by treating them like people who have their own emotions, thoughts, and feelings. Regardless of how young your children are, they still have a whole word going on inside of them. By teaching your offspring to pay attention to this world, you are helping them learn what motivates them, and what different experiences feel like. Then, you can help them generalize this knowledge, by explaining that everyone else also has internal world events to contend with. Actually, this is something that adults would do well to remember too!

Find Common Ground

One of the easiest ways to teach children to empathize with others is to help them see the similarities that they share with other people. These similarities can be as basic as the fact that we all breathe oxygen, bleed red, and depend on our hearts to pump blood through our bodies. By focusing on similarities, rather than differences, we can help children understand that there is a common thread that unites us all, and that treating others with empathy makes the world a friendlier place.

If you would like to learn more about improving your child’s social skills contact us. We are here to help!