Prosocial behaviors are viewed as a sign of social and emotional competence throughout childhood. They can be defined as the ability of children to act helpfully and cooperatively. While some young children are naturally inclined to be prosocial in their first years, it is generally not an inborn trait, and adults’ guidance plays an essential role in requiring the necessary skills. This paper aims to discuss the importance of the environment for forming prosocial behavior and provide personal observations on how setting can define interactions between children.
Firstly, it is necessary to determine the elements of prosocial behavior and explain its importance. According to Miller, when children behave prosocially they benefit others and improve their well-being (165). Acts of kindness boost mood and often launch a chain reaction of good deeds. There are three main elements of being prosocial: cooperation, empathy, and altruism (Miller 166). Cooperation implies teamwork toward a mutual goal, empathy describes the ability to understand the feelings of other people, and altruism means a selfless and beneficial attitude toward others. Prosocial behavior is vital since helping activities support people in distress, improve the psychological and emotional health of benefactors, and promote positive social relations.
In promoting prosocial behavior, the physical environment is crucial for enhancing children’s experience. It includes both objects and people with who a child interacts (Miller 166). To make the environment more prosocial, much space for interaction is needed, as well as a variety of objects in good supply for children. For example, upon the observation of two girls of a preschool-age trading toy fruit, it can be stated that no changes in the physical environment are needed (“Clip #1438 Trading Fruit” 00:00:01-00:00:10). There is enough space for both children at the table and each girl has a plate with toy fruit, which they can use to learn how to trade. The educator encourages children to interact and benefit each other.
All three elements of prosocial behavior can be observed in children during their play. For example, a video presents three preschoolers building a toy block tower guided by their teacher. Children are cooperating and adding blocks to make a tall building, excited by the outcome (“Clip #1452 00:02:06-00:02:16). In the example of trading fruit, one of the girls only gives one lemon for three apples; however, she quickly shows empathy, understanding that the unfair trade might offend the other girl. She asks: “Do you want two? Do you want three?” and now both seem satisfied (“Clip #1438” 00:01:13-00:01:26). Another video represents an altruistic behavior as a three-year-old boy helps a same-aged girl to fill her plastic cup with sand from the tray when no adults intervene (“Child Observation” 00:13:56-00:14:28). The boy talks to her politely and does not expect anything in exchange; he is happy to help. In all the examples, prosocial behavior leads to positive emotions.
Adults often intervene in children’s activities to teach them to act prosocially. According to Faber and Mazlish, an educator should encourage children to use social skills (ch. 4). It is the teacher that suggests the fruit trade to the preschoolers to benefit both (“Clip #1438” 00:00:55-00:01:02). In another video, the educator repeats: “We all work together at school” (“Clip #1452 00:01:14-00:01:22). By doing so, she emphasizes the need to cooperate and help each other. The teacher’s role in promoting prosocial behaviors is crucial, and good knowledge of child care is needed for efficient learning.
Prosocial communication is an important skill that children learn from an early age. An example can be seen during the game “Bakers,” when children make sand cakes and a three-year-old boy suddenly starts singing the “Happy Birthday” song, causing smiles and laughter in others (“Child Observation” 00:15:05-00:15:22). An example of a non-verbal communication act is demonstrated when two toddlers are sitting at the table with cakes and candles at an improvised birthday party, with adults close by (“Child Observation” 00:05:59-00:06:03). The boy kisses the girl on the back since he knows it as a way of showing affection. The videos show how prosocial communication leads to positive attitudes in children and strengthens social relations.
The observations made while watching children play together can help me create a prosocial environment. The examples in the videos demonstrate that as a teacher I should provide children with objects that help them interact and work as a team. Besides, creating a positive atmosphere by speaking in a clear, friendly, encouraging, and excited manner engages children into play and helps them learn how to act. I will use the experience gained while observing in my future interaction with children.
In conclusion, the development of empathy, positive peer relationships, emotion regulation, and positive self-concept is crucial during the early years of life. Strong interpersonal skills build a foundation for social success in adult life. Promoting prosocial behavior in children is one of the teacher’s main tasks, which can be accomplished through encouragement and guidance. Setting and environment can define children’s interactions and prompt them to be understanding and ready to help.
“Child Observation THE 3 TO 4 YEAR OLD Learning Through Play.” YouTube, uploaded by Science Videos, 2019. Web.
“Clip #1438 Trading Fruit.” YouTube, uploaded by CECE Video Library, 2020.
“Clip #1452 Guiding Children to Build Together.” YouTube, uploaded by CECE Video Library, 2020.
Faber, Adele, and Elaine Mazlish. How to Talk So Kids Can Learn: At Home and in School. SCRIBNER, 1995.
Miller, Darla Ferris. Positive Child Guidance. 8th ed., Cengage Learning, 2016.