Building Strong Social Skills in Kids: Communication, Cooperation, and Conflict Resolution

Queueing at your favorite coffee shop. Giving a quick nod of acknowledgment to a pedestrian crossing the road. Not storming out of a room when arguing with your partner. 

All these habits come so naturally that we rarely give them a second thought. But if you think critically, you’ll notice that navigating social interactions is a skill that’s instilled right from childhood. 

Some people learned to navigate social events through observation and a bit of trial and error. However, modern-day parents and guardians should take a more deliberate approach to fostering social skills in their little ones. 

This way, kids will find navigating the world around them easier. Besides, proper social development also improves their academic capabilities. On that note, this article helps you learn how to build social skills in early childhood. Let’s dig in:

Developing Social Skills in Early Childhood

Know Their Interests

Bonding with peers will happen more naturally when your kid engages in an activity they love. Different children will have different interests, from soccer to musical instruments, and arts and crafts, among others. So if you’re unsure of how to build social skills in your youngster, start by learning their interests

This way, you can put them in settings where they’ll interact with kids sharing similar interests. Enroll them in a debate club, allow them to play their favorite sport after school, or sign them up for weekend robotics lessons. Whatever piques your child’s interests, encourage them to participate more. 

Use Role Playing

Another effective tactic for building social skills in children is role-playing. Pretend play - whether it involves younger or older kids - provides the perfect opportunity to practice social skills. 

Let’s say your child approaches you and says they’re not getting along with one of their classmates. Instead of asking them to ignore that individual, have them act the same way as the classmate. This gives you a rough idea of the other child’s mannerisms. It also sheds light on how your child perceives them. 

Next, you’ll want to exchange roles. This will help you know how your child responds to their classmates. You can then offer tips on how to make the interaction flow more smoothly. Examples of these tips should be maintaining eye contact and using non-verbal cues like nodding or smiling. 

Encourage Your Child to Share

You’ve had to share a thing or two at some point. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easy, especially for younger kids.

Toddlers and preschoolers particularly struggle with this skill as they’re more interested in meeting their needs. And guess what? That’s completely normal! This study published in Psychological Science sheds more light on this. It suggests that though kids as young as two are willing to share, they only do so when the resources are plentiful. 

While the little ones might not grasp the concept of sharing, older kids will. So by the time your child celebrates their 6th or 7th birthday, you should have introduced this concept to them. Mastering how to share will go a long way in helping them create new friendships and nurture those they already have. 

Teach Them about Conflict Resolution

Dispute is inevitable - whether it’s amongst siblings or his peers back at school. 

So if there’s one skill you should train your child early on, it’s how to resolve conflicts amicably and effectively. Like sharing, having this skill makes it easier for them to navigate social interactions. 

For older kids, teach them the four-step process for handling conflicts. They can apply this to resolve disputes they’re involved in and even those that erupt among their friends. This conflict resolution strategy entails:

  1. Relaxing - the first thing your child should do is to calm down. If their current environment doesn’t encourage this, it’s okay to excuse themselves and return once they’re calm.
  2. Understand the issue - the parties involved should then take turns explaining their perception of the problem. Ask your child to be genuine about their role in causing the conflict. This will encourage everyone else to be honest too.
  3. Apologize - train your child to apologize genuinely. A sincere apology typically conveys regret, accountability and a solution. 
  4. Brainstorm remedies - with everyone having apologized, the kids can propose solutions to the underlying issue and vote on the best one. 

Experience and Discuss Stories With Kids

I’ll start off with the fact that you should be intentional about spending quality time with your child. This is the best way to know whether your child’s social skills improve. 

More specifically, you should schedule time to experience stories with your little one. This can be in the form of reading a book, watching a movie or having a storytelling session over some s’mores in your backyard. Once you’ve shared this experience, discuss the story in the plot. 

You can discuss each character’s behavior at length - the actions or decisions they made and the resulting consequences. The idea is to provide a platform to exercise crucial social skills, such as active listening, taking turns and asking questions.  

Model Ideal Social Skills

Kids are constantly learning from your actions. So if you want your munchkin to have good social skills, start by adopting them yourself. 

When your sibling visits, do you take turns speaking or talk over each other? Are you polite when talking to clients over the phone? How do you resolve conflicts with your partner or colleague?  

If you haven’t been paying attention to your social interactions, you’ll want to start doing that now. Children learn social skills not only by being taught but also through observation. 


Building social skills in children is an integral part of their development. It’s the only way they’ll be able to navigate social interactions with their peers, instructors and other adults. 

So how do you build social skills in kids? Well, this requires you to learn their interests, teach conflict resolution, encourage sharing and use role-playing. Most importantly, be mindful of how you interact with others as your child is constantly learning from you.

Leave Reply