Research suggests that positive family involvement contributes to a child’s academic success. You are your child’s first teacher, and your child is developing social skills through interactions with you and other family members and friends. Parent-child interactions are the foundation of a child’s social development, and when you are able to provide your child with reasons for your rules and values, they will be more likely to be socially active and open-minded.
In preschool and kindergarten, your child is discovering new ways of acting and socializing, and the best way for you to support their social growth is to lead by example. Your child learns how to make friends, cooperate, and share with others by seeing your interactions. It is important to use your influence to help him or her become a socially aware individual capable of having lasting relationships. Take time to talk to your child about their feelings, beliefs, and concerns, and share your values. You can also give examples of how you approach the different social interactions in your life to help them better understand how to apply these concepts to their own lives and relationships. Parents who speak with their children and explain why, for example, you say thank you when someone is kind, or why you should not hit siblings when they don’t give you their toys, are helping to raise a child who thrives in social situations. Dinner time provides a great opportunity for conversation, and it can be a time to talk to your child about your values, his or her emotions, and interactions during that day.
Set boundaries for your child. Setting rules—and consistently following through with consequences if they are broken—is an important aspect of building trust between you and your child. Talk to your child about the reasons behind rules so they know why rules exist and what you consider proper behavior. Your child might test those limits, but if you are consistent with logical consequences, and remind them about the reasons behind the rule, they might think twice about breaking that rule the next time.
Explain to your child that you trust that they will follow the rules, and if they don't, they should trust in the fact that you will be consistent in the way you respond to this type of behavior. Remember that some young children will not remember all of the rules you may make, so having visual reminders, or reminding a child of the rules as they enter a particular situation, will make it less likely they will break the rules. As your child gets older and earns your trust through following the rules, you can give more responsibility and freedom, and they will need fewer reminders.
While your child may still be very young, it’s good to begin teaching small lessons that will help build their independence by the time they are ready to leave home for college. You can help do this by asking your child to do some simple activities that they can do on their own to help with the morning or nightly routine. Ask your child to brush his teeth, or get dressed in the morning, or change into pajamas at night. Remember to give clear and simple directions to help her understand exactly what she needs to do. If he forgets or doesn’t understand what is being asked of him, provide him with positive reinforcement, and explain your instructions again, as patiently as you can. Give them time to do what you ask, and provide them with positive feedback after they complete the task.
Parent Toolkit resources were developed by NBC News Learn with the help of subject-matter experts, including Anne Morrison, Pre-Kindergarten Teacher, Lycée Français de New York, and Maurice Elias, Director, Rutgers Social-Emotional and Character Development Lab.