Many parents feel pressure to make sure their child is actually kindergarten-ready. But, are they really focusing on the things that ultimately prepare their child for future success?
Knowing their name, being able to tie their shoes and going to the bathroom by themselves are important for sure. But did you know that social competency skills such as being able to listen, share material with others, solve problems with their classmates, cooperate and be helpful are every bit as important, perhaps more so?
Researchers from Penn State analyzed 753 children in Durham, N.C., Seattle, Nashville and rural Pennsylvania and found that children who were more likely to share or be helpful in kindergarten were also more likely to obtain higher education and hold full-time jobs nearly two decades later. Kids without these social competency skills were more likely to face negative outcomes by age 25, including substance abuse problems, challenges finding employment or run-ins with the law.
The researchers found that for every one-point increase in a student's social competency score, he or she was:
- Twice as likely to graduate from college;
- 54 percent more likely to earn a high school diploma; and
- 46 percent more likely to have a full-time job by age 25.
For every one-point decrease in the child's score, he or she had a:
- 64 percent higher chance of having spent time in juvenile detention;
- 67 percent higher chance of having been arrested by early adulthood;
- 52 percent higher rate of binge-drinking;
- 82 percent higher rate of recent marijuana usage; and an
- 82 percent higher chance of being in or on a waiting list for public housing at age 25.
The research shows that high-quality relationships and rich social interactions in the home, school and community prepare children well for the future. Never underestimate the importance of a stable home in the life of a child.
No matter your child's age, you can help them learn what they really need to know. Parents and extended family, child care providers and neighbors - everyone really - can help young children develop these social-emotional skills.
Try these strategies to help children develop social/emotional competence:
- Let them figure out how to solve their own problems (within reason).
- Instead of making decisions for them, help them make decisions.
- Teach them about emotions and help them understand other people's feelings.
- Give them opportunities to learn what it looks like to share with others.
- Provide experiences where they can be helpful.
- Teach them how to express themselves appropriately with direction.
- Be intentional about giving them instructions and helping them follow through on what you asked them to do. This will serve them well when it comes to listening and following instructions in the classroom.
- Give your child the chance to engage in activities with others where they learn to cooperate without being prompted.
Providing these opportunities is beneficial, far beyond kindergarten. Although it may be easier for adults to make these things happen for their children, easy isn't always best. Step back and see what they can do - that's some of the best kindergarten prep you could ever do.
This article was originally published
in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on March 17, 2019.