There is a difference between developing social skills and developing prosocial behavior. Parents often confuse the two and feel that if their child has good social skills, they will grow to be considerate, collaborative, kind individuals. However, prosocial skills are more nuanced, they revolve around compassion, social justice, and philosophical evaluation of one’s impact on others. It requires children to be able to take another’s perspective, to feel empathy for others, and to analyze their own behaviors in relationship to others. It can be a difficult thing to teach, particularly to students who don’t have a good track record with socializing, as they lack opportunities to practice. Children who are shy, misfits, bullies, or atypical are often rejected by others, so cannot have the daily interactions that build understanding and empathy.
Parents can teach pro-social skills directly, and early training at home can set their children up for social success as they grow. Children learn by watching and listening to their parents and caregivers. When the parents act with compassion to help others, their children learn from their actions. Parents can also talk about events that the children have witnessed, both positive or negative, to explore why people took those actions and how those actions impacted others. They can also read stories and watch programs that show people being compassionate, sharing, helping, exhibiting kindness and so on. Owning a pet and being taught how to love and care for that pet can teach children pro-social skills. Often having a sibling or siblings offer children ways to learn good pro-social skills, if the parents model pro-social behavior. In addition, authoritative parenting of collaboration, compassion, empathy, and support will teach children how to be pro-social.