March 26, 2009
Teach child art of socialising
Cultivate a child's emotional intelligence and he will grow up to be a confident and empathetic adult. JUNE CHEONG reports
Shyness in young children can be overcome if parents give them some tough love. Harvard University emeritus professor of psychology Jerome Kagan found that if parents pushed their shrinking violets towards challenging situations like meeting a new child instead of protecting them, their kids will overcome their shyness in time.
Dr Joanne Staunton, a cognitive psychologist at Thomson Paediatric Centre, said: 'Encourage your child to talk to other children. If he is very shy, teach him words that he can say like 'What is your name?' '
She added: 'The good news about emotional intelligence is that it is virtually all learnt. Even though newborn children differ in temperament, their temperaments can be changed and developed.'
Emotional intelligence refers to a person's ability to understand and manage his feelings, his ability to empathise with those around him and his being able to get along with others.
Ms Shona Lowes, a clinical psychologist at Equilibria Child and Family Psychological Services, said: 'If a child is outgoing and relaxed, he will approach other children easily.
'If a child is quieter and more anxious, he may need more encouragement to approach others. The more they interact, the easier they will find it.'
Socialisation is necessary for a child's development as it teaches him important lessons like how to fit in and how to share.
Dr Staunton said: 'If a child is not interacting with other children in kindergarten, primary school will be more daunting as he is unable to make friends and, as a result, may dislike the experience of school.'
A three-year-old usually seeks the attention and approval of adults and enjoys doing or saying funny things to make people laugh.
A four-year-old should be able to play with other children in a cooperative manner and take turns. He may also like playing imaginary or dress-up games with others.
A five-year-old will play games with others and also likes chatting with his friends about things or games he likes.
By the age of six or seven, a child will usually be more interested in being with friends than their parents and may have a best friend or a special group of friends.
Ms Lowes said: 'The first signs of socialisation are seen in babies who make eye contact with their mother.
'Parents are already starting the socialisation process with babies by talking to them and responding positively to the babies' attempts to communicate.'
Besides propelling shy children into difficult situations, parents can also teach them how to interact with others through engaging them in guided play.
Ms Lowes added that praising the child after he has spent some time playing with other children will also encourage the child to be more sociable.
During guided play, parents should enter the child's world as an equal and refrain from criticising the child, allowing the child to lead the direction.
Dr Staunton said: 'Watching the way parents interact with them helps children to better adapt their play with other children. Through cooperative play, children learn to take turns and share responsibility.'