Teaching Children Social Skills

Messages from Chinuch Research Center

We at CRC, we understand that as Torah Jews, raising children with good values and social skills is a top priority. That’s why we are excited to share this article with you, filled with practical tips for creating a more pleasant home environment. By teaching our children social skills, we can foster a positive and harmonious household. Our team at CRC is committed to providing parents with the resources and guidance they need to raise confident and well-mannered children. With our help, we hope to empower parents to create a home that is both loving and respectful. Join us in our mission to raise the next generation of kind and compassionate Torah Jews.

Teaching Children Social Skills

Small children, though they can undeniably be extremely cute, are not necessarily renowned for their social skills. They may throw food, scream and shout, run about, and generally do some very inappropriate things.

Part of parents’ responsibility is to educate their children and teach them social skills, basically to turn them into respectful, mentchliche individuals.

This can be an extremely challenging task, and there may be plenty of times when you feel that your efforts are entirely in vain. It is, however, worth persisting, as your children will acquire solid middos and certainly become more pleasant to live with.

Different Approaches to Parenting

There are many different approaches to parenting, with no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way. So, how do we actually teach social skills?

Guidelines for Teaching and Developing Social Skills

Once you have decided which skills are most important to you, then you need to think about how you are going to teach them.

Here are our top suggestions:

1. Show, don’t tell.

Your behavior speaks volumes. Your children will remember how you acted, reacted, and behaved in all kinds of life scenarios far more clearly than anything you may have told them in mussar talks, lectures, speeches, etc.

If you want your children to be kind to others, be kind to your own children. Demonstrate that you, too, are kind to others. If you want your children to be polite, say please and thank you to others, including to your children. 

The bottom line for achieving your goal: You have to do it too.

If you forget yourself or get very stressed and end up modeling totally wrong behavior to your children, all is not lost. This is, in fact, an opportunity to show them that adults, too, make mistakes. Wait until you are calm and then apologize to them for behaving like that, and say that you know what you did or said was not the right way to act.

2. Be prepared to remind your children how to behave repeatedly.

Acquiring appropriate socialization skills is a long and involved process. It can take many years.

You may have to repeatedly remind your children of the need to say please, ask politely, and thank people when they do something for you.

You may, however, find it easier to model the behavior you want (for example, when you hand your child a drink, wait a moment, then say “thank you, Mommy”) rather than ask “what do you say?” every five minutes. If they have forgotten, they have forgotten.

Remember that children can, by nature, be manipulative.

From a very early age, they intuitively know what to do to get your attention. Part of socialization is learning how and when not to push someone’s buttons.

3. Praise and reinforce the behavior you want.

It is always more effective to reinforce the behavior you do want rather than to criticize what you don’t want.

This means that every time your child is polite, or thanks someone without being prompted, you need to notice and praise them. This may sound a bit much at first, but it will very definitely be more pleasant for everyone rather than you spending your life saying, “Why don’t you ever say thank you?”

4. Make it age-appropriate.

Whether you are teaching your toddler the importance of responding when someone says ‘hello,’ or your teenager how to behave in a job interview, your teaching always needs to be age-appropriate.

You will find it helpful to look at our page on Understanding Toddlers and Young Children for further, important discussion.

5. Focus on what is really important.

There are hundreds, if not thousands of phrases dating back many, many years, of things that you could teach your children to improve and shape their behavior:

Children should be seen and not heard

No elbows on the table

Don’t talk with your mouth full

Mind your P’s and Q’s

… and so on.

You could try to teach all these principles at the same time. You and your children may, however, find it much easier if you focus on just a few things at a time, in an age-appropriate manner.

Decide what is really important – whether that is kindness to a sibling, sharing nicely, or table manners – and concentrate on that.

Once the rules in that area are clear, you can move onto something else.

Bottom line:

The key issue in teaching children appropriate social skills is that you have to be clear about what is important to you, and show your children these manners in the way you yourself behave.

It is almost pointless to tell them that they have to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ if you never do so. Likewise, if you want them not to shout at each other, it is of no benefit to shout at them at all (even though you may be tempted to do so from time to time). Read our pages o

All of this may require a long, hard look at yourself.