Teach Kids to be Sociable

Being sociable is about being friendly and willing to talk and engage in activities with other people. It is associated with enjoying the company of others (see WordPress) and being pleasant and friendly. Some elements of being sociable are defined by innate character and personality – for example whether introvert or extrovert – but other elements are learnt social skills that are built upon a healthy sense of self.

Whether naturally outgoing or not children learn the rules of being sociable from their experiences with how other adults and children around them behave. Thus a vital part of teaching children to be sociable is for adults to model the basic elements of respectful appropriate social behaviour so that children can see how to behave.

Of course when children are raised in a hostile society they often lack good adult role models. Children will see adult violence all around them. They may witness shootings and robberies first hand in the street and experience domestic violence at home or see it happen to children they know. They will also experience negative behaviour from their peers who have learned poor social skills and in turn will come to be anything but sociable.

In such a hostile environment some children will become withdrawn, pulling away from healthy relationships, sometimes especially within their families if that is the source of hostility. It will overflow into their peer relationships and drive their healthy sense of self into a downward spiral where they are disconnected from society. Other children will become overtly aggressive and violent being anti-social and un-sociable in a different way.

Teaching children to be sociable in such a society is aided by the model of human development provided by psychologist Urie Bronfenbrenner. This model known as Ecological Systems Theory helps put children in context of their different social circles, showing how they are influenced by different circles of society from the micro-system of the family itself, to the macrosystem of cultural context and chronosystem of how these circles change.

The model shows us that children need to be surrounded by positive social examples for their healthy development. Being sociable stems from being surrounded by and experiencing positive behaviour and experiencing fair discipline when sociable behaviour is not demonstrated that will help teach the correct behaviour that is desired in the cultural context.

The role of parent’s in helping children develop their natural level of sociability is thus vital. Parent’s need to model the friendliness that is desired, show children how to resolve conflict in an amicable way, demonstrate appropriate respect for other people, and ensure the child is surrounded by good role models.

Parent’s also need to guide children through the different “systems” in society as they experience wider circles of peers and adults. As children experience negative social role models they will need help in understanding and dealing with these, especially when they are themselves negatively impacted by poor role models. Parent’s need to show children how to deal with social situations that are unsafe, or which are situations when they should not be trusting of strangers.

Ultimately children will learn the healthy balance of being sociable, respectful of others and friendly, while recognizing when and where certain social situations need to be avoided because they are dangerous or violent. They will also gain a sense of how to keep themselves safe in a hostile environment while being appropriately sociable.