Social competence can be viewed as children knowing:

  • How to act in a variety of settings – be that at home or in new situations they might find themselves in. This could be coming to Kindy or going to school, or a sport/dance club.
  • How to act when alone, with family, peers, and with other adults.
  • How to get along with people they might know well – what is acceptable and what is not, or if just meeting someone for the first time, or those children who are here at kindy, but not necessarily classed as ‘friends.’
  • How to interact with people that don’t mean a lot to you or you don’t like (strategies include: scripting, modelling, facilitating).

As much as we want to make the road smooth for our children, there are some things we as parents cannot do for them and this particularly pertains to Social Competency. Children need to have mastered some strategies they can rely on by the age of 6 years. In psychological terms, this age is crucial.


Traits of social competence

These don’t prescribe correct social behaviour but by observing, we can understand and support children who are still developing social skills.

For the individual:

  • Usually positive
  • Comes to kindy willingly
  • Copes with rebuffs or disappointments
  • Shows interest in others
  • Growing capacity to empathise
  • Capacity for humour
  • Does not seem lonely
  • Interacts non vebally with others – smiles, waves, nods
  • Expects a positive response when approaching others
  • Expresses wishes/preferences clearly – gives reasons for action/position
  • Is not easily intimidated/bullied
  • Gains access to ongoing play
  • Can express anger without escalating disagreements or harming others
  • Take turns fairly
  • Can enter ongoing discussion/relevant contributions
  • Has positive relationships with one or two peers – really shows they care about them
  • Give and take – materials, info, feedback
  • Negotiates and can compromise
  • Maintains friendships
  • Can accept people with difference – be that special needs, ethnicities

With peers:

  • Usually accepted rather than rejected by other children
  • Respected, not avoided
  • Invited to join in play
  • Named by others as friend – like to play with

With adults:

  • Not totally dependent on adults
  • Shows appropriate response to new adults


Recognition of when it’s not developing normally

Children’s development varies. Not all will do things at the same age/stage as others.


Delayed gratification and self regulation

Most important is the child learning about self-regulation or delayed gratification. Children under the age of three can’t do this, so don’t panic.


Specific strategies to support social confidence
  • Scripting – some children have difficulty expressing their ideas verbally. How to express feelings and opinions
  • Negotiating – joining in. It’s ok to say no (scripting) and to honour this.
  • Making friends – kindy friendships are important but not the be all and end all of friendships (transient often at this age). When a child goes to school it might be that s/he may not even go to the same school, or be in the same class. A child who started 3 weeks earlier may have established a ‘new’ friend.
  • Sharing – sit with them and encourage them to watch what the other child is doing with the toy. Ask for a turn and don’t always get given straight away.
  • Reward the positive – try to ignore the negative, although this is not always possible. Not necessarily with a bought item. Let the child choose, play at the park, ice-cream.
  • Challenge and change – I love you – I don’t like the behaviour. And not at the time when everyone is fired up.

However, there may be other factors contributing to your child’s behaviour. Maybe something is happening at home eg: moving home, new baby, illness or death of a grandparent or maybe some other family factor. Children are very astute and often pick up on vibes and snippets of conversation happening around them.

When your children have several people looking after them, they can get too many rule structures they have to try to remember e.g. at home, grandparents’ home, kindy, daycare/nanny etc.

We as educators monitor your child’s progress. If we have any concerns we will discuss and observe firstly, and we often tell you about your child’s day. If we do discuss an issue that has arisen – this is no reflection on your parenting. It is just that we want to be on the same page with you so we are consistent with how we deal with it. We deal with inappropriate behaviour quite regularly. We want the best for your child. Best practice encourages creating a shared understanding between us (educators) and parents

  • Be flexible but strong – you are the adult.
  • Be fair, listen and you may even change your mind,
  • KFC – Communicate kind, firm and calm.
  • Speak well of the child in the presence of others.
  • What can I learn from a child’s eyes? I can recognise when s/he is nervous, excited, frustrated.

From Pio Teri – the Parenting Place

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