Question: You write about the value of putting children in preschool to learn socialization skills. From what I have seen of the typical behavior of children in preschools, biting, hitting and taking toys away from other kids seem to be the primary skills taught by other children in these places. Our daughters, who have never been in day care or preschool, play well with other children and share generously. I cannot believe that they would pick up such social skills from other children in preschool. Do you agree? - Parents
Answer: We believe that parents are primarily responsible for teaching their children social skills. Children do not automatically follow social rules. They must be taught not to bite, kick, grab other children's toys or say hurtful things. It would seem that the parents of the preschoolers you have observed have not done an adequate job in this area, and that the teachers are failing to insist on appropriate behavior.
While a good preschool experience can help children become socially adept, it certainly isn't necessary, as you have clearly demonstrated. Good preschools, however, do have value. Through playing with other children under the direction of skilled teachers, children learn to share, negotiate and cooperate. They also gain experience in forming friendships. Furthermore, children's social skills will improve most when they play with the same children every day. One other value of preschool is that it gives children the opportunity to participate with others in school activities, making the transition to kindergarten easier.
All children are going to behave in anti-social ways at times. While most 3-year-olds want playmates and can get along with them fairly easily if they have plenty of simple toys and a safe play area, teachers and parents do have to step in when there are problems. By the time they are 4, most children can play reasonably well with their peers, with little intervention from adults.