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How to encourage a child’s social development

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HealthWiki > Helping Children Who Are Deaf > Chapter 10: Social skills > How to encourage a child’s social development

2 men, a woman and a girl sitting and signing to each other.
I always wanted to be just like my big sister.
Me too!
How many brothers and sisters do you have?

Help your child get to know adults who are deaf or cannot hear well. This helps her learn that adults who cannot hear can still be successful, and will help her build confidence and self-esteem. If she sees them cooperating, asking questions, responding and expressing feelings, she will learn social rules and develop her social skills.

A boy speaking to his little brother as they brush their teeth.
Good job, Kofi. You did it yourself!

Encourage your child to become responsible and independent.

A small boy thinking as he gathers wood.
Fatuma says
I am a big help to Mama. I can get wood for Grandma too.

Help him be aware of skills he already has that are valued or useful in the community. Encourage him to develop these skills even more.

Help a child communicate about his feelings

A child who cannot talk about his feelings may have no choice but to act them out instead. He may hit, scream, or kick when he is frustrated or angry because he has no other way to express those feelings. If your child is often frustrated, rude, or angry, you need to help him learn to express his feelings in other ways.

Look for opportunities to teach your child signs and words for strong emotions. This will help him know and understand his emotions. When he does, he will find it easier to talk or sign about his emotions rather than acting them out.

A man speaking to his small boy as 2 men argue near by.
Those men are very angry, Moshe. Sometimes you feel angry too. Like when Aminata broke
your toy.

Reward good behavior

When a child behaves well, he is treated well by the people around him. When your child is behaving well, praise him. A child wants the love and approval of his parents and others, and he will repeat the behavior that brings praise and attention. A few comments during the day, or giving him a hug or a treat, will go a long way to encourage good behavior.

Teaching a deaf child good behavior takes patience and hard work. But once he begins to develop social skills and behaves well, it will be easier for him to make friends, join the community, and eventually go to school.

A woman signing as she and her daughter wash clothes.
Good job, Sisi!
Mother encourages Sisi when she tries to wash her clothes.
  • Praise her when she does something well.

A smiling girl helps her little brother clap his hands.
  • Reward good behavior rather than problem behavior. Give your child a smile or a loving pat when you like the way he is behaving.

Often a child continues a problem behavior because he has learned that it will get him what he wants.
For example:

Kwame has been left to play by himself. He tries to get his mother to come play with him. When she does not, Kwame starts yelling. His mother comes to see what's wrong. Now Kwame has her full attention.
A small boy calling to his mother while she is cooking.
The boy starts yelling and pounding his toys on the ground while his mother turns around and speaks.
The woman speaking as she approaches to hold her son.
What is it, Kwame? Shhh. Mama is here now.
Refusing attention when
Kwame is being nice...
and giving it only when
he begins to yell...
bad behavior.

But if you give your child attention when he behaves well and refuse it when he behaves badly, you can teach him that acting badly does not get him what he wants. For example, Kwame's mother learned that:

A woman speaking as she holds her son, who is playing with spoons and a pot.
Are you helping Mama cook?
The woman continues cooking while her son yells and pounds the ground with spoons.
A woman thinking while she observes her son playing with spoons and a pot.
What a good
Giving attention when
Kwame is being nice...
but refusing it
when he yells...
good behavior.

Let a child know 'why'

A man speaking as he holds his boy's hand while walking past chickens.
Hoa, I said stop playing and hurry up!
Hoa might walk more quickly if his father could explain to him that dinner is waiting for them at home!

It is easier for children to do something you ask if they know why they should do it. But because young children who cannot hear well may not know enough words or signs to understand 'why', parents often find it easier just to tell them what to do. If children do not understand why they have to do something, they can become

Make change easier

Transitions (changing from one activity to another) can be difficult for many young children. They may get upset at going from one house to another, or at having to stop playing in order to take a bath. They still have to get used to daily routines. Until they learn to expect a chain of daily activities and become comfortable with this, children may struggle with the ordinary routines of the day. And when they get used to a routine, even small changes can make children feel insecure.

A man speaking as he shows a picture of a bath tub to his small boy.
Julio, it is bath time. I am heating the water now.

It is easier for children to accept changes when they know what to expect. Pictures can sometimes help you communicate about transitions. For example, if your child is playing and it is time for his bath, you can show a picture of him taking a bath. Discussing what the picture communicates can give him a chance to prepare for the change and may make the transition easier for both of you.

To make going out in public easier, it may help if you explain to your child where you are going before you go. For example, show him your basket to help him understand you are going to the market.

Remember — change will be easier as children get older.

Help your child learn to make decisions

One of the most important things children need to learn is how to make good decisions. If you or others tell a child what to do all the time, she will not learn to make good decisions.

A man thinking as a small daughter looks at food in a market stand.
Let's see if Pu Yi understands that she can choose either a round bun or a long bun.

Being able to make good decisions helps children become confident. Being confident will help them participate fully in the activities of their communities and help them have better lives. Whenever you can, encourage your child to make simple choices about things that affect her. For example, sometimes she can decide what to eat or drink, what to wear, when to sleep, or choose what to do.

If a deaf child wants to make a decision but cannot tell you what she wants or likes, try asking her questions to help her communicate what she would like to do.