Children learn a lot of their social skills through imitation. How well a child is able to learn social rules and get along with others does a lot to determine how successful they will be in life. How developed a child’s social skills are determines what social group they will fall into.
Socialization is so important to a child’s well being, but how do I determine what the best environment is for my child? I don’t want to shelter him too much, but what he sees modeled affects his behaviour. When he sees other children behave aggressively he becomes more aggressive. I do not want him to be aggressive but I do want him to know how to deal with aggressive people, as he will encounter many people like this over the course of his life.
My son is very loving and most of the time people respond well to this, but sometimes they reject him. When do I let this happen and how close do I stay with him in this moment. If he sees a child crying and offers them a hug and they reject the offer, I can stand beside him and say, “it is very nice that you offered her a hug, but she doesn’t want one right now. I think that she wants to be alone. Would you like to come and play with the trucks now?” I can talk him through things sometimes and teach him, but how close do I stay to him and when do I back away?
I want to teach my son problem solving and life coping skills, and this means letting him make age appropriate decisions and work through some issues on his own. It is sometimes difficult for me to determine what is age appropriate. I also believe that social skills need to be taught. We are not born knowing social rules. This makes explanations and gentle guidance important.
What are your experiences with imitation and social learning? How do you decide what to help your child with and what to let them decide/learn on their own?