When you first discovered you were expecting a child, you began thinking about your parenting style. What would you prioritize for your kid and when would you start teaching each important life lesson? As soon as you held your baby, strategizing might have fallen to the side so you could focus on your new daily routine.

Now your child is a little older and you’re thinking about how well they’re going to handle their school years and early adult life. Will they transition through everything successfully? Sounding out phonics and learning math may feel like the most important lessons to focus on right now, but you should also teach valuable skills that will help them be social.

Read on to learn why you should invest in teaching your child social skills and how they’ll benefit from it. When they’re not reading their first books or tumbling onto the school bus with an oversized backpack, you can reinforce positive social behaviors so they enjoy these benefits throughout their life.

They’ll Learn About Themselves

Part of being social is learning about yourself. You wouldn’t be able to make friends or enjoy being around others if you didn’t know your personality first. Social skills introduce kids to their likes and dislikes, such as being involved in large friend groups or hanging out with their friends one at a time.

Your child will also learn to recognize their emotional state as they become more social. Their grumpiness caused by waking up from a nap will influence other people around them and make them grumpy too. They’ll identify that emotion and learn to turn it around so they can create positive emotions in other people. This skill makes them more personable in relationships and their future career.

They’ll Play Better With Friends

Young kids have a natural tendency to think only about themselves. All they know is that they’re hungry, tired or want your attention. As they practice being around other people, they’ll learn that their friends and family have needs too.

Recognizing the needs of others helps kids play better. They’ll value showing kindness through things like sharing. Social awareness is something your child will use for the rest of their life and they can start practicing by hanging out with friends.

They’ll Problem Solve Faster

When you see your kid struggle with communicating, your first urge is probably to jump in and do it for them. The smarter move is to show them how to problem solve, which is considered a soft social skill that young kids can learn. Ask them what the problem is and present them with options, explaining what each consequence would be so they can choose the best decision.

Part of problem-solving is making decisions in the moment, so your child will have to practice this one on their own as they grow. The more they practice, the more likely they’ll stay out of trouble when they get older, avoiding things like school problems and criminal activity.

They’ll Rein in Impulses

Kids act on impulse all the time. They’ll reach for the cookie jar even if it’s off-limits and grab a toy from their sibling if they want it. Impulse control may seem like it will take time to learn, but you don’t have to wait until your child is in elementary school to teach them to recognize and stop acting on their first instinct.

Impulse control comes from the prefrontal cortex, which rapidly develops during childhood. Engage this part of your child’s brain by trying out social skills activities or playing their favorite games. Something as simple as pretend play will help them imagine what someone else would do and act out scenarios instead of listening to their impulses.

They’ll Do Better in School

School requires kids to sit still for long periods and do what their teacher says, which is difficult for kids who haven’t learned to recognize and ignore impulsive behaviors. A study conducted with eighth-grade students found that when they achieved higher levels of self-discipline, åçthey earned better grades in most subjects and were more likely to get into a competitive academic high school program.

Self-discipline lessons begin at home while kids are young. Study your child’s behavior to learn when they’re most likely to act on impulse and how to teach them to avoid those behaviors in any social setting.

They’ll Have a Better Future

You might think that your child should focus on getting into college or preparing for a career when they’re in their later high school years, but they can start right now. Social skills like recognizing emotions and making decisions not influenced by them are critical for success later in life. Children who start learning this by kindergarten are more likely to graduate from a university and earn a well-paying job to kickstart their careers.

Every moment you spend acting out emotions with dolls or identifying feelings with flashcards will give your child a strong foundation to build their future on.

Every Child Deserves Success

No matter what your kid is interested in or how well they do in school, they deserve every chance to be successful. That starts at home with your parenting skills, but it doesn’t have to be a challenge.

Try these easy tips to invest in teaching your child social skills. They’ll learn to communicate, control their behaviors and problem solve before they ever get on the school bus. A simple pre-prepared lesson or time spent playing dress-up will jumpstart your child’s development and make social skills easy for them to learn.