Happy well-adjusted adults do not happen by chance.
Adults are, essentially products of a whole heap of factors and genes, including how we were nurtured as children. An important factor in any child’s development is social skills and there is no better place to acquire some, and put them to the test, so to speak, than at a child’s birthday party.
We have all seen or even been part of the embarrassing fracas at leaving time, when the child realises the filled party bags do not meet their exacting expectations or requirements.
However, help is at hand but, the world of parenting is a place filled with conflicting advice; on one hand, we tell our kids how wonderful they are and yet, only recently, there were findings from a study that suggested telling our kids they were ‘special’ was a sure fire way of creating arrogant adults.
But, there lies another hidden danger too that when we talk about social skills, we are talking about being outgoing, the party queen or king but, this is not the case. Some people are more introverted than others, and this is just fine. Being social is about having the ability to interact with others in an acceptable and appropriate way.
It is understanding that because you lost the game, is not an excuse to hit the victor! It is about being able to ask for something, and be able to engage with people that is pleasant, if nothing else, as well as standing up for yourself.
Age appropriate skills
Pre-schoolers to those children nearing the end of primary school in the UK – aged 11 to 12 years of age – are ‘expected’ to develop a certain set of social skills as they progress and, when you look at this list, you can understand how children’s parties work in with this learning…
The skill set includes;
- Listening to others
- Following rules
- Ignoring distractions
- Asking for help
- Taking turns when talking in a group
- Getting along with others
- Staying calm with others
- Doing nice things for others
- Being responsible for their own behaviour
You might think this points to children being ‘nice boys’ and girls’, and to certain extent, you would be right. In order to succeed, and not survive in the world, we all need a set of fundamental social norms. Being cooperative is one thing, but being doormats is not what we want for our children.
Teenagers, however, are a law unto themselves, to a certain extent, it seems that these social skills seem to disappear from the radar of the ordinary sulky teenager. With the surge in hormones and exam pressure, it can be understandable.
On the one hand, this independence we have been so desperate for our children to acquire – you remember those days of having your child peeled off you to stay at another child’s birthday – it has now come crashing through the door. This independence brings a whole new heap of dangers and opportunities.
All of a sudden, they care about what other people think to a degree that their social norms start to change again. Their parties might not be on a par with the typical child’s birthday party, but these social gatherings can still be important ways in which their social skill set is advanced.
The rocky, fraught teenage years are expected to produce a social skill set that include…
- Setting personal goals
- Identify and change self-defeating behaviour
- Assert their own needs
- Have feelings for others
- Deal with anger
- Resolve conflicts in a peaceful way
Don’t use labels
Often, as we get to the point where our child is invited to parties, it opens up a whole heap of excitement and fun, tinged with fear. And when a child finds it difficult to throw themselves into the rumpus they are presented with, we instantly call them shy.
Shyness and fear are two emotions intermingled but, rather than this being a negative label, we need to look at this as a perfectly normal social skill that takes time to acquire. Would you, as a balanced adult with all the social skills needed, be happy to walk into a crowded room of people, and plunge into a conversation with the first person you see? It would be easier if you had someone with you, until you had settled in to the situation.
And this is where parents come in to making sure parties are a great way of acquiring and practicing social skills. If nothing else, enjoy the party and relax because, all too soon, the teenage years will be upon you…