Sunday, July 25, 2010

Social Skills - Part 1

The CPS –'collaborative problem solving 'approach
See my blog - Children do well if they can - July 8,2010

has a philosophy that 'children do well if they can 'and 'not that children do well if they want to you'. Most kids would prefer to do well and be successful , especially being accepted , have good relationships , feel they can initiate social interactions , maintain friendships , feel autonomous and not controlled by others.

Social skills deficits are one of the reasons that kids respond in a maladaptive way in situations where demands are placed on these skills.

In addition to using Plan B and solving problems some social skills can be taught through direct instruction and role play.

Problem solving is far more effective as it is really on-the-job training in real situations. Social skills are essentially one on one interactions and these are best taught by parents , teachers , mentors or peer mentors in an informal way through Plan B discussions solving real problems. Problem solving puts the missing skill into a meaningful context for the child, helping him put his concerns on the table and asking the questions - over what is the problem , with who , when and why . Problem solving promotes skills like empathizing, perspective taking, interpreting motives behind behaviors and most important asking questions. The art of conversation is the art of listening and asking questions. We don't have to limit our conversations to personal or family problems. Actually these skills are better taught in the beginning by chatting about general stuff , other peoples' , kids or animals problems , something we saw on TV , newspaper or magazine articles , movie , video or reading together a book. We can take perspectives , notice concerns , define problems , look for mutually satisfying solutions , describe behavior as pro-social and moral.

Social skills should taught in the context of building and contributing to a family , classroom , school and community. Kids need to ask themselves not only what type of person do I want to be , what are my inner core values , does my behavior express this - a caring and responsible person , but they also need to ask what type of family, classroom , community do I want . They have to see value in community. Getting involved in community work , charities , sports clubs where there are different generations helps with social skills. When we put kids together with their peers , we often get bullying and other non-social behaviors. Put a kid in an environment where he has to act like an adult , he will start thinking like a caring person and not like a teen. Mentors , buddy-tutors , older family members and friends are great resources for promoting these skills.

It is easier to have these discussions on non-emotive subjects. We can also transform day to day experiences into learning ones , transcending basic interactions by exploring them and making meaning. Baking a cake or seeing a report of an earthquake can stimulate conversation to so many different disciplines and directions.

In short the most effective teaching tool we have for our kids is US , simply connecting and having conversations , taking perspectives , concerns , exploring issues and problem solving. It promotes learning, life skills , connection , kid gets to express himself , has a voice and thus feels respected and understood. He becomes a ' subject' .

The Chazon Ish , a famous Rabbi (1878-1953) said – ' What a child needs from his parents more than love is respect'.

See Social Skills Part 2 for links and resources


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