Monday, April 20, 2009

Sharing Footprints -- grande finale?

As I think about wrapping up this series, I realize that I could never fit all I have learned, and more importantly, all I have left to learn in a handful of posts.

I pray that my thoughts and ideas have encouraged you in your mothering role, and know that while this series nears its end, God has plenty to teach me still as a mom. So, you can expect them to keep trickling in.

A while back I wrote about some of the character training we have done in our house, so I don't want to just repeat that. However, aside from a brief mention of it in that post, I haven't talked about the social skill training that we do in our home.

While pregnant with our second child we moved into a residential school for boys as houseparents to twelve students in third through fifth grade. That experience introduced us to a formal method of teaching social skills based on the Boys' Town model.

We learned that social skills do not come naturally to kids (obviously), and we need to intentionally teach our children how they should respond in various situations.

Basically, any social skill that you expect your child to exhibit should have clear steps founded with logical rationales and role played in non-emotional settings to help establish the habit. Also, while they continue to learn the proper social behaviors they need lots of reinforcement and reteaching of the expectations, as well as consequences when they blatantly violate clear boundaries.

For example . . . Accepting 'No' for an answer. This is HUGE!!! If children can control themselves and master this one, life gets a whole lot easier. Have you ever thought about it before? What do you really expect from your child when you tell them 'no' instead of giving them permission? Do they know what you expect?

The steps:

- Look at the person
- Say 'okay'
- Stay calm (or calmly ask for clarification)
- If you disagree, ask later

It always amused me when role playing this with boys of various ages. After teaching the steps and beginning to memorize them together we would prompt them to ask for anything they felt like, knowing that the answer would be 'no.'

They would mull it over for a minute and then ask for something. We said, "No." Almost without exception they showed the need for teaching in this area. They would hang their head, grumble, roll their eyes, etc. So, we would start again and after a while the habit would sink in.

And, when they got it in role playing sessions, they could often put the skill into practice when faced with the real deal. We would still encourage them throughout the process as they learned these new skills.

Although we initially came into contact with these social skills in our interactions with other people's children, we quickly saw the benefits in our own children. They learned to say "okay" quickly and respectfully. They do still go through times of poor attitudes, or "forgetfulness" about the application of the various skills. However, the social skills with their concrete steps have given us something to come back to when expectations seem hazy.

I do need to clarify that these skills help raise socially adept children, not necessarily godly ones. Sometimes we confuse the two. We have a responsibility to teach our kids moral standards and proper manners, but we can't blur those with the need to teach our children to walk in Christ's footprints. Ultimately, our kids will walk their own path out of our home, and we will see how much has filtered further than habits.

For now, we train, teach, model, and pray, and pray, and pray.

What social skills do you emphasize in your home? How do you teach them? What areas of character, manners, or social skill training do you think are essential to child rearing? What areas do you think are most lacking in our society today?


Marie said...

Consistency is so important and to me it is the hardest part to character training. Thanks for giving me the reminder and so much more to think about.

Becky said...

This is very practical approach to teaching children to accept "no" as an answer. Great post! :-)

5intow said...

Marie, consistency is so tough, yet so critical. I know I have to do it, but need constant reminders and encouragement myself to stay consistent. I sure can't expect it from the kids consistently when I struggle to enforce it consistently.

Becky, glad you enjoyed it. I love making things practical. Personally I like to veer off into the philosophical, but for kids they really need as hands-on as possible.

Thanks for stopping by!

{ jamie } said...

Great post. Consistency is tough, but totally necessary. I need to remind myself of this! ♥