CHILDREN WITHOUT FRIENDS, PART 4:
IMPROVING SOCIAL SKILLS
|Gladys A. Williams, M.P.H.
Doctoral Student, Clinical Psychology
Department of Psychology
University of Illinois - Urbana
Steven R. Asher, Ph.D.
Bureau of Educational Research
University of Illinois - Urbana
- Take turns
- Share the game or materials
- Make a suggestion if there is a problem with a game
- Give an alternative if there is a disagreement about the rules
- Get involved
- Get started
- Pay attention to the game or activity
- Talk with the other person
- Say things about the game or yourself
- Ask a question about the game or other person
- Listen when the other person talks
- Look at the other person to see how he or she is doing
- give some attention to the other person
- Say something nice when the other person does well
- Give a smile sometimes
- Offer some help or suggestions
- Congratulate the winner
- Compliment the other player's skills
- Shake hands and say, "It was a good game."
- Say something nice about the game
- Say something funny about yourself
- Be friendly-fun-and-nice with teammates (see earlier concept)
- Cheer for everyone on your team
- Keep playing for the whole game
- Pay attention to how the team is doing
- Make a joke
- Keep your voice calm and quiet
- Leave quietly
Now let's turn to the topic of teaching concepts such as those in Figure 1. Each concept is taught by having the coach draw out the child's ideas of what the concept or idea means. This is done by using behavioral examples. The coach should have a list of examples in mind for each concept, and should add these examples to those the child thinks of.
Let's imagine coaching Nick. In the first session, the coach would begin by explaining to Nick why they were meeting. The explanation should include a reason for using the concepts. The coach might say, "I want to talk with you about some ideas I have about things that make it fun to play with other kids. I'd like to talk with you about the ideas, and then have you try them out and let me know if they help make things more fun." Then the first concept would be introduced: "The first idea is 'cooperating.' Can you tell me what cooperation means?"
Coach: Can you tell me what cooperation is?
Nick: Umm ...Sharing.
Coach: Yes, sharing. Let's say you and I were drawing a picture. What would be an example of sharing?
Nick: I'd let you use some of my markers.
Coach: Right! Letting me share the markers is an example of cooperating. What's another way to cooperate?
Coach: Let's say we were practicing shooting baskets, and we had only one basketball. How might we cooperate?
Nick: By taking turns.
Coach: Yes, that's a way to cooperate (etc.).
The discussion is followed by the practice part of the session. The coach would ask Nick to try out the ideas they talked about, and tell him that they will talk afterwards about how it went. Then Nick would play a game with another boy his age for about 12 minutes. The coach would non-obtrusively watch the game, noticing when Nick used one of the ideas they had talked about, and when he did not use the ideas.
The third part of the session is the review. Here, the coach asks the child to talk about how he or she used their ideas during the activity. Nick's coach could say, "So, how did it go? Did you have fun? Did the other kid have fun playing with you? Can you think of a time when you cooperated? What did you do? Do you think that made it more fun? How else did you cooperate?" The coach would listen to Nick's reactions and would also give him positive feedback. This review should take about five minutes, and then the coach would say, "Why don't you keep using this idea when you play with other kids. Let's meet again in a couple days. You can tell me whether the idea of cooperating made things more fun."
At each of the next three sessions, the coach and Nick would start by talking about the concept(s) they had already discussed, and about Nick's use of them since the last session. Then the next concept would be introduced and the session would proceed like the first session. There should be a new game and a new play partner for each session, both chosen in advance by the coach.
The sessions that teach the individualized concepts could be set up basically the same way. Some minor changes may be needed. With Nick's first two follow-up concepts, for example, the practice activities should be chosen carefully. In order to practice "being a good sport when losing," a very short game would be best. Many games could be completed within a 12-minute period of time, hopefully giving Nick several chances to practice losing graciously. For practicing "being a good team member," the activity should be a game that involves two teams of two children.
For Nick's third follow-up concept, "keeping your cool" when being teased, a change is needed in the reason for using the concept as well as in the activity. The coach could explain, "Often, when kids tease someone, it's because they like to get that person upset. Today, I'd like to talk with you about the idea of 'keeping your cool' when you get teased. If you can keep your cool, kids won't tease you as much after a while." To allow practice in "keeping your cool," role-playing would probably be more effective than playing a game with another child. The coach could act out the part of a kid who teases Nick, and Nick would practice his new responses with this "kid." Nick and the coach would then review how Nick did in this artificial situation. The coach would then ask Nick to try the idea out whenever anyone started to tease him in the next couple of days.
We hope the ideas we have presented here are useful. For more information, you might consult some of the readings listed below.
Coie, J. D., and Koepple, G. K. (1990). Adapting intervention to the problems of aggressive and disruptive rejected children. In S. R. Asher & J. D. Coie (Eds.), *Peer Rejection in Childhood* (pp. 309-337). New York: Cambridge University Press.
Ladd, G. W., & Asher, S. R. (1985). Social skill training and children's peer relations. In L. L'Abate & M. A. Milan (Eds.), *Handbook of Social Skills Training and Research* (pp. 219-244). New York: Wiley.
Oden, S., & Asher, S. R. (1977). Coaching children in social skills for friendship making. *Child Development*, 48, 495-506.
Oden, S., Asher, S. R., & Hymel, S. (1977). *Procedures for Coaching Socially Isolated Children in Social Skills*. Unpublished manual, University of Illinois.
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