Social Emotional Skills


A critical piece of teaching children social and emotional behavior skills is to do just that-teach the skills. Many adults wait until a child misbehaves or “pushes their buttons” before reacting. The result is usually some type of discipline or punishment. Teaching does not occur in the heat of the moment, only emotional reactions. Therefore, children often repeat the behavior. Good teachers (and parents) teach their children appropriate behavior BEFORE inappropriate behavior occurs. When a child has background knowledge prior to the episode, the adult can say, “Remember when we talked about not hitting someone? What did we decide you should do instead?” This kind of a dialog instantly de-escalates the situation so that reasoning and understanding can take over, not emotional reactions. Previously setting up consequences also takes the emotion out of the moment. Both the child and adult already know the consequences (previously chosen with the input of the child) for the behavior.

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8 responses

  1. I find this very interesting. I guess that I never thought about it this way, but it is so true. When a child already knows that what they are doing is wrong, it is easier for them to realize what they need to do to fix the problem. It made me laugh about the story you told when you were evaluating a teacher and two of her students were fighting. She looked to you for help, and you told her to do it on her own. When she tried to work out the problem one of the students responded with, “‘F’ you.” If the teacher had explained to the students what to do in their situation, they would have been able to talk it out. Beth Gerard-HessTuesday night Children’s Lit.

  2. I have seen this principle work in the classroom I volunteer in. One of the students called a couple girls in the class an inappropriate name and the teacher immediately asked, “Do you remember what our class decided when we are inconsiderate to our classmates?” The student quickly remembered and apologized to the girls that were offended. He wasn’t getting reprimanded for something that the class and teacher had never talked about. He knew the rules and expectations. This seems to work well and I hope I can implement this in my classroom when I begin teaching.

  3. Wow, what a wonderful insight! I have to say that I completly agree. I think that far too often we enable kids to misbehave and then punish them for it. It is such a good idea to have consequences set up before the actual situation occur. Not only does this benefit the kids, but also the parents. When you are in the heat of situations, your head isn’t clear and you aren’t always able to think of a rational way. Many parents resort to unnecessary ways of punishment (such as spanking) because of this. Setting out ground rules work better for everyone. Very good point! :)Gwen OvesonMonday Night Children’s Lit.

  4. I completely agree with your posted comment. Kids can’t read our minds, they may not know what’s good and what’s bad unless they are taught. Why not teacher before the outburst of hitting, biting, etc? If they’ve been taught what to do in situations like hitting (etc) then it’s more likely that they’ll avoid punishment. Parents need to use every moment as a teaching opportunity!!Amanda LarsonTuesday night Children’s Lit.

  5. Hey John, I belief that behavior is determined with nature and nurture, both the genetics and the environmental factors is key to determine a child’s temperament. Children learn from each other, they copy and self evidently observe what others are doing and not doing. Bad and good. I think that child emotional needs can be fun and frustrating to parents. You hate to discipline your child, but enough is enough. I totally agree with you on teaching does not occur in the heat of the moment. I think it’s impossible to eliminate bad behavior overall. You can be the best of teacher/parent, but you still have the stress of peer-pressure and exploration. Children may show their emotions through physical aspect rather then words, but coping with fighting and punching seems easier to teach then many other aggressive behavior. I think it’s hard to deal with, since children tend to be egocentric. Everything has to be their way…or else!! Linh TranTuesday “Children’s Lit”

  6. I really like this post! I think it needs to be the main lesson on disciplining kids. Seeing a kid get yelled at for doing something they may not know was wrong isn’t something I like to see. At my work I see some of my fellow staff members wait until they have no more patience with a kid and ends up yelling at them, putting them in time out, or suspending them when the children had no idea they were doing something wrong. I believe that the first sight a child is doing something against the rules it is our responsibility to sit them down and explain why we don’t do that. I think that teachers all need to be aware of this and always have it in the back of their head when a child is getting on their last nerve. Lisa EndoTuesday Night Childrens Lit

  7. I liked your comment on the social and emotional skills. I was watching my niece and nephiew this weekend and it was clear to me that this method was done with child #1 but with child #2 they most of gotten a little lazy. Watching the second child interact with her cousins it was clear to me that she was not taught before hand. This was great insight and I agree with it 100%. Thank you!McKenna BMon night child lit

  8. This advice sounds great in theory. I have a 10 year old, a 3 year old and a 1 year old, all boys. My 3 year old is always hitting and pushing my 1 year old around and more recently injurying him. I have talked before hand about hitting and how we treat our family and the rule is 3 minute time out in his booster chair. Where he kicks, screams and thrashes about. He is not really concerned with the punishment until it actually happens to him. I feel like this will never work. Also, in the car, I have no recourse. He will reach over and hit his brother while I am driving, when he is upset. If he won’t quit, I eventually have to pinch him to get him to stop. He has a speech delay and has a hard time expressing himself. Any ideas for me?

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