Preparing Your Child for School, Part 2–Social & Emotional Development

How to change a negative attitude

Young children are often very excited about entering school. But when they do, they can face an environment that is different from what they are used to at home or even in preschool. In kindergarten, your child will need to work well in large groups and get along with new adults and other children. He will have to share the teacher's attention with other youngsters. The classroom routines may also be different.

Most five-year-olds do not start school with good social skills or much emotional maturity. These things take time and practice to learn. However, children improve their chances for success in kindergarten if they have had opportunities to begin developing these qualities:

Children must learn to feel good about themselves and believe they can succeed. Confident children are more willing to attempt new tasks-- and try again if they do not succeed the first time.

Children need to learn to do things for themselves.

Children must want to learn.

Children are naturally curious and must remain so in order to get the most out of learning opportunities.

Children must learn to finish what they start.

Children must be able to get along with others and learn to share and take turns.

Children must understand that some behaviors, such as hitting and biting, are inappropriate. They need to learn that there are good and bad ways to express anger.

Children must learn to have an interest in others and understand how others feel.

Parents, even more than child-care centers and good schools, help children develop these skills. Here are some ways that you can help your child acquire these skills:

1. Set a good example.

Children imitate what they see others do and what they hear others say. When parents exercise and eat nourishing food, their children are more likely to do so. When parents treat others with respect, their children probably will too. If parents share things, their children will learn to be thoughtful of others' feelings.

2. Have a positive attitude.

Children come into this world with a powerful need to discover and to explore. As parents, you need to encourage this curiosity if your child is going to keep it. Enthusiasm for what your child does helps to make her proud of her achievements. Children also become excited about school when their parents show excitement. As your child approaches kindergarten, talk to her about school. Talk about exciting activities, such as going on field trips, and making fun art projects. Be enthusiastic as you describe what she will learn in school, such as how to read.

3. Provide opportunities for repetition.

It takes practice to learn to crawl, pronounce new words, or drink from a cup. Repeating things until they are learned helps youngsters build the confidence needed to try something new.

4. Use appropriate discipline.

All children need to have limits set for them. Children whose parents give firm but loving discipline are generally more skilled socially and do better in school than children whose parents set too few or too many limits. Here are some tips:

Direct your child's activities, but don't make unnecessary restrictions or try to dominate.

Offer reasons when asking your child to do something. For example, say, "Please move your truck off the stairs so no one trips over it," instead of, "Move it because I said so."

Listen to your child to find out how he feels and whether he needs any special support.

Show love and respect even when you are angry. Criticize your child's behavior, not your child.

Help your child make choices and work out problems.

Be positive and encouraging. Praise your child for a job well done. Smiles and encouragement go much further to shape good behavior than harsh punishment.

5. Let your child do things alone.

Young children need to be closely watched, but they learn to be independent and to develop confidence by doing tasks such as dressing themselves and putting their toys away. It's also important to let your child make choices, rather than deciding everything for her. Remember to give her a choice only when there really is one.

6. Encourage your child to play with others.

Preschoolers need these social opportunities to learn how to see the point of view of others. Young children are more likely to get along with teachers and classmates if they have already had experiences with different adults and children.


Click here to learn about "The 6 Best Things You Can Do For Your Children."

For more resources for healthy child development, click here.

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