One of the greatest challenges you will face as a parent is to teach your child how to deal with other people they meet in their life. It is an open secret that emotional intelligence is as important if not more than just academic laurels. Children who know how to make friends easily become secure, confident and often successful adults who know how to deal with relationships both in the personal space and at a professional setting.
This is an art that many of us are still on the way to mastering that the thought of imparting such knowledge to a child seems like a Herculean task. However, you should remember that you as a parent should only seek to facilitate and expose your child to different things. How they assimilate, digest and grow from their experiences is their own journey that you cannot seek to choreograph. But the onus of making sure they have an open enough mind to gain perspective from all the exposure we provide them is on you.
What you can do to make your child more sociable can be categorized into two things:
- Things you do with them to be more open with new people they meet.
- Activities you engage them in that will serve as ice breakers for them when they engage with other children or adults.
Popular rhymes and TV shows
Apart from the wonderful offbeat stories you picked up at a boutique store and the wonderfully illustrated book your artist friend highly recommends, make sure you walk your child through the common set of nursery rhymes and stories, not for the knowledge but because they serve as excellent icebreakers in group settings. If a song that your child knows and loves plays at a birthday party, he or she might just come out of hiding from behind you and actually shake a leg if other children are doing so.
Set an example
If you want your child to initiate conversation, play happily with other children, you should also mirror the behaviour you want by doing it yourself. No matter what you say to them, children notice what you do much more than what you say. So if you are reticent, there is a good chance your baby will be just that simply because that’s what they see and think is the norm. So put on your best smile and start conversations in their midst. Tell them about your friends and how much fun you have with them.
Spirit of kindness
Some children are by nature very drawn to people and some are by nature prone to choosing to spend time alone. Regardless of which category your baby falls in, teach him or her that in any situation, it is important to do what is kind. That is a value they should imbibe and learn to recognize in others when they find themselves on the receiving end of it. This attitude in itself will help them take the spot light away from the act of socializing to the larger picture on how we are all in this journey together with so much to learn from each other.
Engage in small activities
Encourage your child to help out in small chores around the house. Even if they do not get it right the first time, give them space and time to learn. Try to help your child understand the tasks involved in keeping a clean home and food on the table. Building awareness and concern about their privileges is a great way to raise socially responsible children who will appreciate the value of others in their life.
Be firm but very affectionate
A child who is secure finds it easy to share space and resources with other children. Be demonstrative and affectionate to your child as much as possible. Make it a point to help them understand how unique, special and loved they are. This makes them secure enough to be open with new friendships and experiences. Try to help them understand that other children are as unique and special as they are. This will help them be able to relate to them better.
No matter how exasperated you are, or how long your day has been, do not use another child to get your child to do what you want. Resist the urge to say that so and so’s baby eats without a fuss. By pitting your child against another, you are teaching them to regard another child as an intrusion into their world. Healthy competition is a complicated idea that even adults sometimes face difficulty in processing. So refrain from any remarks that compare or belittle your child or another child.
Never force them to do anything
Children have to feel comfortable and protected by you at all times. To that end, it makes absolutely no sense for you to force them to speak to anyone that they do not show an inclination to speak to. Ask them a few times but let it go if they are stubborn. Broach the topic with them later when you are alone and understand why they are reluctant to do so. But don’t force them or show authority over them in front of others as it makes them feel very cornered and unsure of their feelings when they are not recognized or respected.
Give them time to come out of their shell
Do not expect your child to make friends in a day with your best friend who has just reconnected with you. Understand that their perspective to everything is different from yours and give them the time they need to warm up to people.
Whether you find your child taking to new experiences like a fish in water or whether they resist making friends with new people, continue to keep doing what you normally do. Establish a routine of play dates and other social meet-ups. Over time, they will get familiar with other people and gradually get over any shyness they may have as children to mingle with others.