Heart-Mind Challenge: Getting Along With Others

What is the quality “Gets Along with Others”? 
When children get along with others they demonstrate the ability to form positive and healthy relationships with peers and adults.  As they interact and play with others, children learn the skills (such as managing their emotions) needed to develop and maintain successful relationships. This journey starts in infancy with the first critical relationship - the relationship between the caregiver(s) and the infant and then continues with adults supporting increasingly complex social interactions in various environments.
What does getting along with others look like? 
A child who gets along with others plays and works cooperatively with a variety of children; demonstrates respect for other children, adults and property; is able to express their feelings and communicate their needs to adults and other children; invites bystanders to join in play; and accepts responsibility for their actions. In addition, they are usually able to regulate their own emotions and behaviour by demonstrating self-control, working independently, and listening attentively. 
Foundationally, the groundwork for healthy peer relationships is a strong attachment with a parent or caregiver throughout childhood and adolescence. With peer relationships, there are powerful social hierarchy influences (status and popularity), as children get older. Yet there is no “best” social style.  A child or youth may be an outgoing person with a wide circle of friends or may be quieter and prefer a smaller group of peers; both styles are healthy with strong skills to  “get along with others.”  
What does it look like when that quality is diminished?
Children may have difficulty getting along with others because they have not developed positive “relational skills”.  They may get into fights frequently when playing with peers, become aggressive during play, have few friends or peers who want to play with them, and refuse to cooperate when the teacher or parent gives instructions. Children who have difficulty making and keeping friends experience more loneliness, depression and struggle with engaging in school. They may show little respect for others and be unable to communicate their needs. 
Why is it helpful/useful to have this quality? 
Having friendships and positive social experiences allow children to practice a range of skills, and develop social behaviours, emotional awareness and an understanding of our inter-connectedness. Child - Adult relationships, from infancy to adolescence, literally shape the development of the brain and cultivates complex social skills over time. These important relationships can occur with caring adults including parents, caregivers, extended family, family friends, teachers, and coaches. Children with the ability to get along with others tend to do better in school, feel better about themselves, and are happier throughout life.
Here is  just a short list of the things you can do:

Create opportunities to practice social skills.

Try some social games such as:
·  Follow the leader
·  Cooperative building – e.g. sharing blocks, using cardboard boxes,  constructing a pillow fort
·  Charades
·  A Blindfold Walk in pairs
·  Role playing – from pretend play for young children to mock job interviews for teens

Look for and acknowledge positive social behaviour.

Tell your child what he or she did well with words, a smile, a thumbs-up or a pat on the back. Be both descriptive and convey some enthusiasm (check your body language!). Even if the behaviour could improve, describe the effort as well as the success.

Adapt the “fill your bucket” concept in your home, school or neighbourhood.  Read more here.

Reflect on your own parenting style during play.

Children need the chance to try out skills on their own and develop confidence at managing peer relations. Adults who are more controlling, directive and intrusive during playtime reduce this opportunity. At the other extreme, those who don’t have any involvement in play lose the opportunity to guide and mentor a child’s skill development.

What is your style? Take this parenting quiz. Whether you are a parent, caregiver, teacher or great uncle, your style when interacting with children influences this important child-adult relationship.

Explicitly teach emotional management techniques.

Build skills to manage emotions and stress by:

·      spending more time in nature
·      practicing mindfulness – be in the moment
·      learn to BREATH deeply
·      expressing  emotions through writing, art and music.

Dig into some great books with positive social messages.

Find these book in your local library!


Challenge book recommendations from a Children’s Librarian, Vancouver Regional Library.

Be ok with mistakes.

Children and youth have to be allowed to make mistakes and be attended to in a gentle and supported way. While it is important to allow children and youth some opportunities to work out their difficulties, at a certain point, adults need to step in to help. Helping to work through social challenges is a teaching opportunity.




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