Soft skills are important social skills

Development of “soft skills” is as important as the “hard skills” of a degree, certification or trade.

More and more information is being shared on the lack of “soft skills” that people have. A few examples of soft skills include the ability to communicate, getting along with others, a good attitude, self-motivation and thinking creatively. Often these skills are not developed or are underdeveloped because we (parents, caregivers and educators) concentrate more on academics then on social skills. Yet, many of us have interacted with someone who lacks “soft skills” and understand the problem. An online survey on the behalf of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, found that potential employers feel strong social skills are as important as their education. Parents, caregivers and teachers all have the opportunity to develop “soft skills.”

We know that the most significant time for children to develop social skills are during the early years. Providing opportunity to hone these skills is very important, so here are some ideas of how you might do that and what social “soft” skills will develop.

  • Provide opportunities for kids to play together. This will develop conversation skills and offer chances to build teamwork. As adults, we need to learn to stay back and observe. Too often, we (adults) have a tendency to jump in and children don’t have the occasion to learn how to work together.
  • Provide opportunities for kids to make up games and rules. With all the media venues available to children today, creating fun games has almost disappeared. When kids have created games and rules it provides them a chance to negotiate rules that will work for everyone involved. It is a teachable moment to learn how to compromise.
  • Learn to follow rules. This is a big one for anyone! Rules are there for a reason. We may not like them or agree with them but they help develop sound ethics.
  • Provide opportunities for exploration. When children are provided with chances to explore different places and things it opens up creative thinking and problem solving. Taking children camping or to the city or country lets them see a place different from what they know. Create an art box filled with all kinds of art supplies for them to generate whatever is in their minds eye. For adults, this means thinking outside of their box to provide these opportunities. Often you will learn and open your mind to new things as well.

Michigan State University Extension provides a parenting education program called Nurturing Parenting that provides information on how to develop “soft skills.” For a class near you go to the Family tab of the MSU Extension website.

By providing these opportunities, you will increase children’s abilities to have great conversations, strong teamwork skills, be more innovative and creative and understand how to problem solve. As they become adults, having these skills will increase their prospects for employment.

For more visit the Center on the Developing Child webpage.