Teaching Positive Social Skills

Teaching positive social skills to our children is a daunting task, because it requires all of the skills our kids lack:  the ability to accurately recognize and display emotion responses, interpret body language, and attentively speak and listen in an even exchange of verbal communication.  The relevance of positive social skill development for our children is indisputable.  Research has shown us time and again that adequate social skill development is essential for social success, and that positive peer acceptance is one of the key ingredients of emotional health and well being.    Studies have noted the positive link between the ability to successfully develop and maintain meaningful peer relationships and successful educational and socioeconomic achievement.  Children who have experienced consistent rejection from their peers have been found to be much more likely to experience anxiety, mood and conduct disorders and social isolation later in life.  Perhaps most importantly, social isolation has been identified as one of the highest common denominators in the factors associated with high suicide rates.  Fortunately, social skills can be learned at any age by any student through effective strategies involving a whole lot of repetition and practice.  Remember that you’re teaching a new behavioral response, for which your child will need support, encouragement, and a focus on progress rather than perfection.


(1)      Identify powerful positive reinforcements that will motivate your child to learn and attempt new behaviors.


(2)      Identify and define exactly which behaviors will be taught.


(3)      Break down each behavior into its component behaviors IN ORDER to determine whether prerequisite skills need to be taught for this new skill.


(4)      Post multiple visual reminders of the positive reinforcements that will be used to encourage positive effort in learning the new behavior.


(5)      Teach the easiest concepts or parts of the behavior first to ensure success and reinforcement.


(6)      Use a multi-sensory model of teaching to ensure comprehension:  telling, showing, role-playing, practicing


(7)      Teach how to recover from mistakes.


(8)      Role-play socially correct and incorrect interaction to ensure comprehension.  Make sure you model the specific behaviors you want your child to change.


(9)      Provide feedback with lots of encouragement and specific praise.


(10)          Practice in different settings and under different circumstances to promote generalization. 


(11)          Be aware of your child in group settings to prompt and coach positive social skills in naturally occurring situations.


(12)          Use self-reports to help your child self-monitor and self-regulate behavior.


(13)          Make positive social interaction a topic of daily conversation.


(14)          Always focus more on the positive changes than the negative set-backs.