Social Skills

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Thinking about children’s education usually revolves around academics. But some think education should go beyond math and English skills to encompass important aspects of social interaction, such as kindness.

Robin Wilson-Clipson, teacher-administrator at Pace Academy in Harlingen, says this is a key skill that children actually pick up easily and could make a world of difference.

“I think this is probably a better response to anti-bullying,” she said. “It is one thing to stand up to bullying, but you have to replace that behavior with something. And we do that by teaching kindness, teaching tolerance, and understanding that everyone is different.”

Pace Academy is a small private school that offers pre-K through eighth-grade education. The school practices Waldorf Education system, which is “based on an understanding of the development of human individuality” and “offers protection and respect for the dignity of childhood,” the Pace website states.

The curriculum focuses on music, reading, writing, literature, math, and science in a way that is not only intended for testing, but for the children to experience these subjects, the site states.

Cultivating social skills is an important part of the curriculum. Some of the behavior that the children are taught include encouraging them to actually get to know their peers by sitting next to someone different during lunch time, or complimenting somebody every day.

Having those personal interactions are even more important now that technology seems to have overtaken our lifestyles, Wilson-Clipson said. It’s not at all rare to see children with phones, tablets, or video games at restaurants, family events, or any other public spaces where they end up missing out on social interactions due to this distraction.

“I think our kids have become so isolated through electronics,” Wilson-Clipson said. “Even with social media, being on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram is not like being with one another. And because we spend so much time with that now, children are truly losing social skills.”

While interaction with family members is an important part of developing their social skills, it’s also important for children to interact with people outside their family so that they learn a different kind of respect.

“One of the things that I practice with my kids here at school is teaching that the kids here are not their brothers or sisters,” she said. “You have to treat them with a different level of respect than you would to somebody you live with.”

Kids that don’t develop these skills could be more prone to becoming frustrated and acting out against others in ways that could lead to bullying. Knowing how to interact with others and show them kindness and respect could end these reactions even before they become problematic.

For a child who shows signs of aggression, teaching them how to problem solve before they become frustrated can ease that frustration of not knowing how to react to an issue, she said.

Over time, it is common for the teachers and family members to see that child resort to the problem-solving skills — which often include reaching out to peers or adults for help — before resorting to aggressive behaviors.

“It’s about giving them solutions and it does work,” Wilso-Clipson said. “Then the children who tend to be more passive, helping them to find their words so that when someone comes up and they are going to do to you something you don’t like, you are well within your right to say, ‘stop it,’ or ‘back off.’”