Getting Social; Preparing for social situations

Teaching Social Skills

Teaching social skills is not unlike teaching letters and numbers. We start with instruction, then we offer opportunities to practice and we gradually withdraw support, as less support is needed. Regrettably, we teachers and parents often overlook the instructional aspect when it comes to social skills. We wait until our children or students have done something wrong, and then we correct them.

This can be effective, but it is not the most efficient way to teach. Ideally, we want to anticipate social conflicts and moral dilemmas, so that we can guide children’s decision-making processes. We want to have discussions about what to do in those different situations, and we want to have those discussions in a positive, affirming, calm setting–not in the middle of an emotionally charged conflict. When we talk about choices, we always want to help children come up with positive behaviors–the what-to-do, not just the what-not-to-do. The more positive behaviors choices we can make readily available, the more likely a child will be to choose one. Usually, that means giving your children many different words and phrases to use. I often say, “Use nice words and nice voices,” and “What are some other words we can try?”

proactive support

Giving children proactive support for handling a variety of social situations is a great way to prepare children to be successful learners, friends and well-rounded people! For a more detailed explanation of how we can successfully teach social skills, visit:

here are a few specific lessons that you can teach young children:

  • * How to ask for an object
  • * How to ask someone to stop doing something
  • * How to make an introduction
  • * How to say “oh well” and finding something else that we want also. (There is always something else that will make us happy.)
  • * How to make our friends feel happy/how to look and see if they have happy faces or sad faces. Although it is difficult for most two and three-year-olds to recognize peers’ feelings, it’s always good to plant that seed!

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