Our social skills

  Have you ever wondered how do we know to interact with other people? We know to interact by instinct, but what about all the rules we respect without even knowing them? How do we develop our personal space?

   Jordan B. Peterson talks in his book 12 Rules for Life about the fact that children develop most of their social skills by the time they reach 4 years old and after that they just test those skills and rules. Apparently, how much children interact and with whom define what kind of skills they’ll have later in life. Based on this, if a child interacts with the parents most of the time and has almost no interactions with other children, he or she won’t have the chance to develop the skills required to interact with peers which will lead to difficulties in this area late in life.

   Ok, but shouldn’t be the same thing? There are some interactions so children should be able to interact with anyone, right? Well, no. This is because there are like different “languages” used. We don’t talk to peers like we talk to our parents so practicing only one of those languages will lead to not knowing the other ones. We’ll try to talk to our peers as we talk to our parents and that can be awkward and it can be one of the reasons some adults have communication problems.

   Besides this, there are some other rules we learn as children (for example, not to kick and scream at other people for nothing). Children test the rules they learned in other situations to see if they apply. For example, I noticed that the child of one or my friends sometimes starts kicking his mother and he only stops at a certain point when his mother gets very angry about it. He does it at home very often and sometimes tries it in other situations as well (for example, at the supermarket), but that’s when his mother stops him right from the beginning. In this case, I believe that the child learned the following: I can kick and scream at my mother at home until she gets very angry, but I can’t do it in the supermarket.

   I know there is this idea that parents shouldn’t say “no” to their children, but it is very important to do it so children can learn what is accepted by society and what is not. It is important because without knowing this, future adults won’t fit and lots of frustration, loneliness and depression can appear. It is awesome to be different because we are, but this doesn’t exclude the fact that we should be able to collaborate as a society so we can go in the same direction. When people cannot proper interact, they cannot collaborate.

   Some parents are overprotective and their children are not allowed to do anything. This is also a problem because experience is what forms us. Being isolated won’t help with developing the required skills so future adults can function on their own in this big bad world.

   What do you think about this idea? How important it is to provide all sorts of experiences to children?

21 thoughts on “Our social skills

  1. This makes so much sense. I don’t have children yet but I often worry that I’ll be an overprotective parent but I’m really aware of how stifling that can be as my mother was like that with me. Personally I believe kids should experience as much as possible but I don’t feel I’m really in a position to have a firm opinion on that just yet. Really insightful post 🙂

  2. I used to be overprotective. My daughter had no social skills except for how to act in school and home with family. She didn’t ,however, have social skills with friends.

    I learned that you have to let them learn, you have to let them out of your sight. They have to become individuals. It took a year. Her skills are better, and I don’t hover like I used to.

  3. I assume that if the children is given space they can become smart and creative. If the kids have a certain social network it’s easier for them to connect with others. If they grew up isolated they can learn to connect with others but it needs an effort. Would you recommend the book for reading? I am always searching for great literature

  4. My parents did almost no socializing outside of our little unit of three, so I’m pretty socially stunted. I can say from experience that what you said about children needing to learn a variety of social situations is true. As an adult, I’m trying to catch up, such as by reading books about social skills.

  5. I’m very much in favor of kids getting in as many social experiences as they are able to. By that, I mean, I don’t think it would be appropriate to take a toddler to the Opera – their ability to focus that long hasn’t developed yet. However, you could totally take them to a show that is directed towards children, where squiggles are appropriate.
    My grandson is a hitter. He hits his mother, and she puts up with that nonsense (err, he’s also gotten into trouble at school for such behavior.) He doesn’t hit me, because he knows the consequences of being popped into a “time out” in a heartbeat. Kids learn not just what they are taught by example, but what they observe. If they really love a certain cartoon that’s got a lot of violence in it (I’m thinking of the old Warner Bros Classics) you sit them down and explain why it isn’t nice to drop a safe on someone’s head – but it’s funny in the cartoon because the cat gets up.

    Sorry for the long reply.

  6. There are so many different educational models these days, parents don’t know where to look anymore. Set rules, don’t, be firm, don’t be harsh, punish, do not punish, etc. As a new parent you get so many advice from everybody whether they know you or not. From my experience, looking at your child and seeing what he can do, or can’t do yet, trusting him and yourself, is better than listening to what other people think is best. Kids need limits so that they know where to go and where to stop. If not, they either cling to you, fearing the unknown, or they act all over the place not knowing what’s allowed or forbidden. A child who feels secure enough will feel free to explore, and try new things. Of course if the parents aren’t curious, and the kid doesn’t see them experience new things, it’s going to be more difficult.

    1. Yes, exactly! I guess that because it’s so confusing for the parents, it gets also confusing for the kids. Being a parent can be a tough job!

      1. Yes confusion for the parents means co fusion for the kids, especially in the presence of strangers or family, friends. The pressure to show you wae a good parent who sets rules for your kids etc. Drives you a bit crazy if you don’t pay attention.

  7. ooh… big topic for me here… I am mother to three children with special needs, two of whom are autistic. They cannot learn social skills in that intuitive way ordinary kids do, and childhood has been a trial by fire of confusion and suffering. It’s late just now, and I need to think a bit more about all you said, but I will say first that saying no is important, but how you do that is equally if not more so. If I impose my will on my children, in a positive or negative manner (do this, don’t do that), it causes their brains to trip over into fight/flight. They experience the mother of all panic attacks, and that causes all kinds of strange and even violent behaviour. When they come out of it, they then feel deep, profound shame and are at serious risk of self-harm. The remorse they feel is heart stoppingly painful to see. I have learned to see my children as fellow humans, and in respecting them as much as I respect adults, I have seen them grow into amazing, kind, compassionate people. They struggle with those unseen rules, but they have self-awareness that allows them to stop and think and look and analyse how others behave. Those strategies allow them (much of the time) to do the social skills thing. Sadly, the imposition or rules, expectations that they will know the unspoken and punishment of “different” reactions have broken them. Both now have mental health difficulties that will plague them all their lives, and that have absolutely shattered much of their potential…

    1. I’m so sorry to hear that your children have to struggle much more in life to do the same things other people do. In these cases the regular “rules” do not apply because these children are not “wired” the same way we are. They are more sensitive on some areas and less in others and this is why they require a different approach in the learning process.

  8. I agree with all of the comments above. In my experience, I’ve found that there are so many factors that affect how children learn to interact with others. As a child, I began parenting my parent at an extremely young age. Living in a remote area of a foreign country soon after that and not being able to speak the language, I had mostly my parents to communicate with. Being in a very strict and overprotective religious military family, I was unprepared for the world when I left home. As a consequence, I have had trouble communicating in all facets of my life.

    1. Sometimes we don’t realize how important childhood is in the development of the future adult. That’s why Freud and other psychoanalysts tried to go so deep in this area to solve problems some adults had.

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