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Does The Bible Have Anything To Say About Social Skills?

By Paul E. White Ph.D. Psychologist


This article was taken from a booklet called "What About Their Peer Relationships?"

Written by Dr. White.


    The Bible has lots to say about social skills and socialization. In fact, getting along with others is a major theme which runs throughout the Bible. In the Ten Commandments God gave instructions about relating to others (Exodus 20:1--7). The Proverbs abound with "social skill" instruction. A key verse with regards to socialization is Proverbs 13:20: "He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools suffers harm." Another good socialization verse is Proverbs 22:24-25: "Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared."

Jesus' teaching, including the second greatest commandment ("Love your neighbor as yourself," Matthew 22:39), also emphasized how to get along with others. The New Testament Epistles, in many ways, give the practical instructions for obeying the command to love one another (be kind to one another, serve one another, pray for one another). Clearly, instructions about how to live in harmony with one another are not the discovery of psychologist!

In past generations, the Bible was the "social skills training manual." Think of how "socially skilled" a person would be if they were as the Bible teaches--kind, forgiving, generous, gracious, thoughtful of others, hospitable, cheerful, humble, loving, honest, hard-working, and trustworthy! Christians should not be intimidated or scared away by "social skills"; rather, we should reclaim our heritage of as knowing more about them than anyone else!

What beginning steps can I take to help my children learn the social skills they need?

Whenever an individual desires to teach something to another person, it is best that the teacher know the subject matter well. Therefore, the first step parents should take is to learn more about social skills themselves.

Second, it will be helpful to identify and select the social skills upon which you want to focus. Generally, it is best of start with one or two skills. Focusing on more than two skills can become overwhelming. After picking which skills to teach, you need to define exactly what it is you want your children to known. This will help you determine whether or not the skill has been learned. For example, a goal for children "to be polite" is difficult to evaluate. But defining the goal as "the children will say 'please' and 'thank you'" is easier to monitor.

The actual instruction can begin when you:

a) Model the skill. Children will learn best and quickest when they see the skill in action (as simple as you saying "please" and "thank you" to them.)

b) Talk about what you are doing while (or after) you demonstrate the skill. Often children will not understand what you are doing unless you explain it to them.

c) Give the child the opportunity to use the skill. This can be done in real life settings or in practice situations which you set up. Practice situations are especially helpful for more difficult social skills, or ones (for example, conflict resolution) which occur in emotionally charged situations.

d) After watching the child, provide encouragement, praise, and/or correction. Start with encourage-

ment and praise. "That's it." "Nice job." Good work." If correction is used too early in the teaching process, the child may become discouraged and not want to try any more. Praise effort, not achievement in the beginning stages.

e) Continue to provide opportunities to practice the skill - with more independence, in different settings, and with different people. Remember most social skills vary slightly depending upon the setting and the type of person with whom they are being used. Also, just because a child uses the skill in one setting (e.g., at home), does not ensure they will generalize the skill to different situations.

Teaching social skills is really no different than the process of parenting in general. But like most skills or subjects to be taught, social skills training requires some forethought and planning by the teacher. Teaching your children social skills is unique, however, because you are able to observe the results of your instruction immediately, as well as throughout their lifetime!


Types of Social Skills:

Meeting/Greeting Skills
Making Requests
Handling Requests From Others
What To Do When Someone Wrongs You
Responding To Criticism
General Social Manners
Relating To Authority Figures
Mealtime Etiquette
Handling Anger (Your Own)
Working Cooperatively In A Small Group
Respecting Others Property

Paul E. White, Ph.D is a licensed psychologist who has specialized in working with children, adolescents and families for more than 12 years. Dr. White and his wife Kathy, homeschool their children and have been involved in their local homeschool community for the past 5 years.