From early on, babies learn to respond to their
parents and caregivers with smiles and coos. While they may have
interest in others in the outside world, babies are unaware of the
feelings and needs of others. They view parents as resources to
meet their needs because they are dependent on them for everything.
As they develop, babies learn that not all of their needs will be
met immediately and they have to wait to have to be fed or for a
parent to rock them back to sleep. It is important to remember that,
during infancy, children are learning social skills primarily from
their parents--children's first teachers. Children learn acceptance
of others, sensitivity to feelings, and social entry skills by observing
and experiencing how their parents interact to them, with friends,
and strangers. When there is a close emotional bond or attachment
with the parent, the child feels safe, loved, and ready to explore
the larger world of social relationships.
Unconditional love and care are essential to the
normal growth and development of social skills in the very young
child. With lots of holding and comforting, loving and responsive
parenting helps the child to see the world in a positive manner
and to expect that relationships with others will be rewarding.
Parents can encourage friendliness by talking and playing with their
babies, and further can enhance their infant's social skills by
offering them opportunities to interact with different adults and
children, helping them to interpret accurately the thoughts and
feelings of others and by praising them when they use age-appropriate
social skills. When babies coo and even when they cry, they are
using their first forms of language. Parents should respond appropriately
by meeting any legitimate needs.
Parents and teachers who enjoy positive
and agreeable interactions, demonstrate acceptance and responsiveness
to the needs of others, and avoid the use of physical punishment
and coercive discipline such as yelling and arguing raise and teach
socially competent young children.