It seems everyone wants me to send Wolf to school, from my parents to the old lady I meet serving tea at the coffee shop. “It is essential for socialisation,” they insist.
The research says otherwise.
Playdates and preschool attendance can add stimulation—-and fun—-to your child’s daily life. But socialization-—the process of learning how to get along with others-—is not the same thing as socializing. Frequent socializing with peers does not necessarily lead to better social skills.
In fact, the opposite seems to be true. Too much time with peers can make kids behave badly. It’s the sulky elephant in the room that no one likes to talk about. Even upscale preschools are likely to make kids behave worse. As recent scientific studies confirm, preschool attendance increases childhood stress and retards social development.
(Source: Preschool Social Skills)
To many parents and teachers, these findings seem to defy common sense. Surely we learn social skills by interacting with other people. What could be more natural than letting your preschooler loose in a social world of her own peers?
In fact, part of this reasoning is sound. You do need people to learn people skills. The question is–which people? Preschoolers need to learn empathy, compassion, patience, emotional self-control, social etiquette, patience, and an upbeat, constructive attitude for dealing with social problems.
These lessons can’t be learned through peer contact alone. Preschools are populated with impulsive, socially incompetent little people who are prone to sudden fits of rage or despair. These little guys have difficulty controlling their emotions, and they are ignorant of the social niceties. They have poor insight into the minds and emotions of others (Gopnik et al 1999).
Yes, preschoolers can offer each other important social experiences. But their developmental status makes them unreliable social tutors. A child who copies other children may pick up good habits—-but she may also pick up bad ones. And peers do not always provide each other with right kind of feedback.
When a child offers to share his toy with a caring adult, he gets rewarded with gratitude and praise. He also learns that he will eventually get his toy back. When he offers to share with a peer, he may not get rewarded at all. Without adult guidance, these experiences can undermine social development by teaching the wrong lessons.
Moreover, it’s hard to see what’s natural about herding together a bunch of children who are all the same age. From the evolutionary, historical, and cross-cultural perspectives, it’s an unusual practice.
(Source: The darkside of preschool)
As parents, we are the best candidates to instill in our children the necessary building blocks in socialisation: empathy, emotional self-control, and communication. Offering our children a secure attachment and ourselves as good role models, and being involved and engaged in our children’s emotional world would arm them with better social skills than any preschool would.