Learning how to get along with other people, developing what we call social skills, is necessary in order to become a functioning member of a family, a peer group or a classroom. This involves a process of trial and error that teaches our children to distinguish between self and others and to become aware of the impact of their behavior on others.

Because children are born with a social drive and a natural desire for approval this process generally progresses fairly quickly. But for some reason the development of the attitudes and skills required to interact with other people comes more easily for some children than it does for others.

What can you do, as a parent, to help your child if they are struggling with the development of social skills? Here are a few ideas. We’ll call them the ABC’s of social skills:

Always praise your child when he uses the appropriate social skills, particularly in areas with which he has difficulty. Positive reinforcement always has more positive impact on your child’s motivation than punitive action.

Be a great role model for your child. Because children learn by example your child will respond most effectively to your consistent and positive examples in social situations. Your child will watch and imitate your behavior in almost every situation.

Communicate and create a positive atmosphere for open interaction and conversation with your child. Explain your expectations to them and tell them why. Encourage them to come to you when they have questions and help them to determine the appropriate behavior for each situation themselves.

The bottom line is that, as parents, we serve as the primary examples for our children when it comes to the development of effective social skills. But activities like martial arts classes and other organized activities are structured to reinforce our examples and can provide your child with additional positive role models.