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Teaching Social and Emotional Skills to Young Children

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According to the early education experts, supporting young children having problem behavior is one of the biggest challenges. In some cases, when children get exposed to some typical environment and build relationships with others, they are often engaged in problem behavior. What concerns the teacher or care giver is how to recognize the needs of children with behavior problem that doesn’t show any response to any prevention practice or positive guidance.

Reasons for challenging behavior

There are various reasons that a child may use problem behavior in some stage of development. They may also do this to get their needs met. For example a child may have a delay in his language and socio-emotional developments or any developmental disability, difficulty in interaction with peers or adults, any experience of neglect or trauma, or may be lack of opportunities to learn some common social and communication skills before his preschool.

In this situation, problem behavior may be reframed as “skill fluency” issue. It is a child’s ability to use a particular skill independently and consistently. After recognizing this skill-instruction issue, the next step for a teacher is to teach them those skills.

Social and Emotional Skills to Teach

To follow simple directions
To identify feelings
To learn to control anger
To solve age-appropriate problems
To interact in group activities
To suggest play ideas to peers
To share toys
To take turns
To help peers and adults
To understand the concept of apologizing
To express empathy with others
To understand appropriate ways of anger expression
To learn to calm down

Teaching social skills- Stage of Learning

Teaching social and emotional skills in a systematic way, teachers need to refer to three stages of learning. Following are the strategies to address each stage in instructing the social skills to children.

1. Introduction to a new skill - In the first stage, any specific skill is introduced to the child. This is also called as skill-acquisition stage. It is pertinent to mention here that the skill is explained in concrete terms to the child so that she understands what this skill is and how and when to use it. Children with socially challenged development may find it difficult to interpret the social behavior and related skills in the beginning. Thus it becomes important for a teacher to use “show and tell” technique. It means to identify a particular skill (for example- asking to take the turns), to identify and demonstrate when it is to be used (for example-watch Annie asking to play with toys), and to link the idea to child’s previous skills (for example- when you see Annie and Peter playing with doll, you should wait for your turn and ask later for your turn to play with it). In show and tell, basically the main thing is to introducing and demonstrating a new skill to children. In this manner they can frequently practice a new skill under teacher’s guidance and also they can get to know about the situations where and how to use this new skill appropriately.

2. Building Fluency - The second stage is fluency so that the child can use the learned skill easily. After the acquisition of some skill, an important teaching strategy is to provide multiple opportunities to practice it in a meaningful context that are a part of child’s natural routine or play. In this way a child will learn the skill quickly. The teachers need to ensure that practicing a newly acquired skill is equally important so that the child can use it easily. Children also need a positive feedback and encouragement on the efforts for further use of a particular skill.

3. Promoting maintenance and generalization - This is the final stage of learning the skills. It means learning a new thing to the extent that it becomes a routine or a frequent part of his social behavior and he also uses it in new and familiar situations. This is very important to reach to this stage for children. The frequency of acquiring and maintaining the new skills in vary from child to child. Some children learn it in less time but some children learn it in comparatively longer durations. For such children who are at social development delay stages, some systematic approach is required to be used by the teachers.

Conclusions - it is critically important for early educators to identify the children who need focused instruction and those who may be considered at risk of socially challenging behavior. Teachers need to teach these important social and emotional skills through developmentally appropriate and child-centered activities. It becomes important to follow a systematic approach to teach new skills in different situations to children, followed by ample practice methods and then making it a part of everyday routine. Children are motivated by their success and also enjoy interacting with peers and
building relationships.


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