For as long as I can remember, people have commented to me about how wonderful my children are because they are so polite.  Parents often told me how they loved having my kids over to play.  Teachers never failed to comment about what “great” kids I have, and somehow the word polite came across in nearly every parent-teacher conference.  There were times I was made to feel that my children really stood apart from the rest of the pack because my husband and I taught and insisted upon manners and good behavior at an early age.  So, as parents, we must have really been rock stars!  Double thumbs up for us, right? And then I heard comedian Chris Rock’s voice in my head, his screechy, crazy voice bellowing out, “That’s what you’re SUPPOSED to do!”  (Talk about taking the wind out of my sails!)  For many of us, teaching our children to be polite, mannerly, and sociable comes as naturally as the sun rising in the morning.  In other cases, parents struggle or simply fail to place importance on the development of these skills, for reasons beyond the scope of this article.

As we’ve entered a time when we hear far too many stories about teen crime, gang activity, bullying, teen suicide, childhood depression (and the list goes on…….) should it become the responsibility of the schools to step in and help children develop the social skills necessary to succeed in life?  There is a lot of information out there about the need to directly intervene in a systematic way, providing opportunities for all students to develop socially.  Many schools have adopted Positive Behavior Support systems to encourage and reward students for appropriate behavior in school, which often ties into demonstration of appropriate social skills.   I’m not certain that incentive, without instruction and practice, is effective enough to reach our most socially challenged kids.  It seems to me that I am not alone in that belief.

I’ve included just a few links which also discuss the need to teach social skills in school.  There are suggestions about which skills are most important and why they are necessary for the successful growth and development of our students.  In future articles, I would like to share some ideas about teaching social skills at various age levels, and systems to reward pro-social behaviors.  I invite our readers to please, please, please share information about social skills curriculums you may be using in your school/classroom and/or the things you do in your classroom to reward students’ positive social behaviors.  We, as teachers and parents, have a lot on our plates.  Having more tools in our bag of tricks only makes our job easier!

Some suggested links, which readers may feel welcome to add to by commenting on this article:

www.nea.org/tools/16763.htm

www.nasponline.org/resources/factsheets/socialskills_fs.aspx

www.cdl.org/resource-library/articles/social_skills.php

www.playworks.org/blog/why-we-must-teach-social-skills-school-and-how-play-can-help