Parents encourage their kids to achieve academic success for excellent reasons. Good grades result in college acceptances, which can then lead to beneficial internships, helpful networking opportunities, and career advancement.
However, Motherly reports that, according to a 2015 study, scoring straight A's on their report cards won’t necessarily set your kids up for future triumphs. That study showed that even while controlling for family demographics and early academic ability, the social skills observed in kindergarten showed significant correlation with well-being twenty years later. In fact, kindergarteners who demonstrated social competence were more likely to graduate from high school, go to college, get a job, and stay out of jail by age 25 than those who displayed less social competency.
This research suggests that a more effective way to increase your child’s chances of a positive adulthood involves focusing attention on building their social skills. Giving your kid the opportunity to interact with her peers and form friendships can benefit her for the following reasons:
Playing with other kids, whether in groups or one-on-one, helps your child learn how to communicate. “Free play”, or unstructured play time without the regulations of a dance class or athletic team, proves especially helpful in this regard, because by socializing with other kids without direct adult interference, children “learn to negotiate, problem solve, take turns, share and experiment.”
When playing with other kids, many children have their first experiences with disagreements and conflicts. While it’s understandable for a parent to wish to immediately swoop in and remove their kid from a challenging situation, these social hiccups can provide an excellent opportunity for problem-solving. Motherly advises parents to guide their children through these circumstances in a supportive-but-removed way: “Ask your child to describe what's going on, brainstorm solutions and try one out.”
Emotional intelligence, or the ability to process and interpret your own feelings and the feelings of others, is a crucial element to personal and professional success. Many of these skills first arise during childhood playtime; by spending time playing games, reading stories, and experiencing their corner of the world together, children come to understand emotional cues and how best to respond.
“Helping others” is a popular value for parents to instill in their children, but because kids start their lives with a naturally-small view of their environments, they sometimes need a push to fully understand how to help others, even if there’s no direct benefit to themselves. Luckily, spending time with other kids can foster those interests and offer your child a more well-rounded view of community-building than they’d get from a TV or an iPad screen.
Although science accepts the fact that impulse control doesn’t completely develop until early adulthood, small children can start to lay the groundwork for this neural evolution by spending time around others. When playing in a group or attending an event with adults, no individual kid will have her wishes met at all times. Her impulse might involve tantruming or arguing, but the more she interacts with others and realizes the importance of waiting her turn, the better-situated she’ll be for socialization in the future.