Prosocial and Antisocial Behavior
Having friends is a prerequisite for learning social skills – but in order to make friends, children need to first master the ability to enter play with others. This comes easily and naturally for some children, but not all of them. How can you help your child successfully jump the initial hurdle into social success?
What You Need to Know
- provides motivation for learning social skills
- provides great practice with opportunities for conflict and negotiation
- helps children learn “perspective-taking,” or considering others' needs and feelings
Developing prosocial behavior in children is a process involving:
- successfully engaging in play, which leads to
- having friends, which leads to
- a basis for caring how your actions affect others, which leads to
- willingness to work at “perspective-taking,” which leads to
- prosocial behavior and social success among peers
The alternatives to this process results in antisocial behavior:
- being unsuccessful at entering play, which leads to
- not having friends, which leads to
- no basis for caring how your actions affect others, which leads to
- unwillingness to work at “perspective-taking,” which leads to
- antisocial behavior and poor peer relationships
How You Can Help
- Encourage close friendships and caring relationships by being proactive about scheduling play dates with peers to help give your child opportunities to get to know other children better.
- Coach your child in successful play-entry strategies, such as observing what other children are doing, and then contributing to their effort. For instance, attempting to join play with a child who is constructing a sand castle will not be successful if your child joins with his own dragon character who breathes fire and burns the castle down. Instead, seeing what the potential playmate is trying to accomplish and working alongside her building a bridge or moat will more likely result in her wanting to play with your child.
- Use children's disputes to help them exchange viewpoints and learn perspective-taking. If your child's dragon breathes fire on another child's castle and tears it apart, your child might not understand what she's done to make her potential playmate cry. Point out to the playmate that you don't think your child understands why she's upset – maybe she can explain what she had been trying to do to help your child understand why her actions weren't welcome.
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