Monday, February 16, 2015

Parenting 101: Teaching Social IQ Skills to Kids

Last week I was invited to attend a "Connect for Kids" workshop at my daughter's school, hosted by Amanda Styles-an expert in working with children and adolescents with social, language, learning and emotional-behavioural difficulties.

 I wasn't too sure what I was going to learn there, but had a good feeling about it. The workshop was promising to teach parents how to develop their child's social and friendship skills by introducing concepts like conflict resolution, joining in, active listening, being positive, dealing with the silly and annoying.

I don't know about you, but I was never taught anything like this when I was little. So, I always assumed it was sort of a common sense and didn't need to be taught. Well, I was wrong.

Over the course of 3 hours I learnt that social skills can and actually need to be taught. According to Amanda, very often kids get to a certain age with gaps in social skills and that causes a lot of problems.

Sometimes the reason is that they just didn't learn one of the "unwritten rules of the game", like respecting other person's personal space. But even more often it has to do with transitioning from one age gap(e.g.:3-7y.o) to another (e.g. 8-12, 12-17). When all of a sudden rules of the game change and some things that might have worked in the past stop working. And that causes a lot of confusion.

For example, during the 3-7 age gap laughing for no reason, being silly and funny is absolutely appropriate, while in the next age group it is not. So, the kids who were very successful in getting desired attention before by behaving silly and funny, may all of a sudden have difficulty adapting if they don't notice that the rules of the game have changed.

So it is extremely important for parents to be aware of those transitioning stages and start talking about them with kids when they see them approaching that new age gap.

The workshop was delivered in a way that was very easy to follow, very well-structured and gave a great framework for introducing the concepts to kids.

It taught me that from the age of 3 years old various simple social interaction concepts can easily be slowly introduced to most of the kids and are highly beneficial to them. This way from the very beginning they learn the rules and get into a position of being able to observe and to choose their reaction, depending on a situation, other children's reaction, their own priorities etc.

Just want to give couple more insights and examples of tecniques from the workshop:

- Importance of play and research proving that through play kids learn some of the most important skills for life. And if they don't get enough of play, they may have problems later in life, as there are some things that adults can not teach them;

- Importance of eye contact, nodding, staying on the same topic when talking to someone;

- When and how to let go (only after they have tried suggesting their own way, offered a reason for doing it that way, tried to make a deal and the person is still too upset and not willing to negotiate);

- How to make deals so that others accept them;

- When and how to use the Smart Ignoring Technique(when someone acts inappropriately silly, stupid, dangerous);

- How to chill out hot feelings. I liked the notion of a "chill out time" that was introduced during the workshop. It is not a punishment, but instead a suggestion by one of the parents for a child to engage in some sort of an activity that tends to calm the child when their feelings are about to get too hot. It can be playing lego, having a bath, playing with play doh, watering the garden, jumping on a trampoline, reading a book, etc. For my daughters it would definitely be colouring, putting puzzles together and reading books;

- Smart response to mean comments and actions, instead of the usual "stop it! I don't like it!", which is often taught in schools and does not seem to be too effective;
- How to join in-join when a group of kids is already talking amongst each other;when approprate and when not.

A lot of it becomes sort of common sense once you read/hear about it. Most importantly, it gave me an impotant framework of how to make sure I'm not missing anything when i coach my kid, and gave me simple tips about important reminders that should be reinforced on an every day basis.

I know I would have definitely benefited heaps, had I learnt these things when I was 5 or 6 or 7 years old!

 Even now after attending the workshop I started paying attention to some of my own social interactions and started noticing what i could do differently, as there is really no other way of teaching your kids something unless you model it first.

So, a real eye-opener for me in terms of how to teach kids to be cool and flexible no matter what, instead of either overreacting and putting themselves in front of everyone else too much or, the opposite- giving in too easily and putting everyone else in front of themselves too much. In other words, true search for the Golden Middle for both children and parents :)

For anyone, wanting to learn more about it, I want to share the recommended reading list from the author of this brilliant workshop.

1. Natalie Madorsky Elman and Eileen Kennedy-Moore "The Unwritten Rules of Friendship: Simple Strategies to Help Your Child Make Friends"
2. Cathi Cohen "Raise Your Child's Social IQ: Stepping Stones to People Skills for Kids"
3. John Cooper "Getting On With Others"
4.Kerry Shanahan "Springboard to Social Skills: How parents can help their children from 4 to 6 years"
5.Michele Borba "Nobody Likes Me and, Everybody Hates Me: The Top 25 Friendship Problems and How to Solve them"
6. Evelyn M Field "Bully Blocking"
7. J. Alexander "Bullies, bigmouths and so-called friends"(this book is written for kids regarding bullying)
8. Richard Lavoie "It's So Much Hard Work Being Your Friend: Helping the Child with Learning Disabilities find Social Success"

For anyone in Australia, you can find out more about Amanda's woskshops here:

Now that I have discovered the true significance of studying the Emotional Intelligence, off to listen to a collection of CDs I have had for probably over 7 years now. If anyone else is interested, her is the link to that as well:

Happy parenting!

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