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Social skills are the building blocks to a preschool education. While children may learn letters, numbers, shapes and even the beginning stages of reading, it is here that they develop the most important skill of all: social relations. Children learn these skills through observations of others, including parents, friends, and relatives. As children need frequent reminders of appropriate social behaviors in the early stages of making a learned behavior seem innate, they may require assistance from you. Fellow occupational therapists and teachers like to use the term: Teachable Moments.

A teachable moment is unscripted and unplanned. When the grownup is observing the child/children engaged in play, an opportunity may arise to positively redirect the negative behaviors or reward desired behaviors. By helping the child/children recreate the scene and identify what was correct vs. what could be changed, you are helping them develop awareness of their own pro-social behaviors.

For example, Henry is playing with blocks in the middle of the floor. Charlie is in the corner with his favorite puzzle. Once completed, Charlie puts away the puzzle and sits down in front of Henry’s castle and says, “That’s a big building. Can I play blocks with you?” Henry quickly responds, “You are stupid, it’s a castle!” Dejected and angry, Charlie walks away, accidentally tripping on the rug and causing the demise of the castle. Henry starts screaming and crying. The teacher has observed the entire episode and sits the two boys down to discuss the incident. They review classroom rules, how words can hurt and apologies are made.

Although the boys are upset, Henry learns that calling people “ugly names” – or using the “S” words are not acceptable social behaviors. With the teacher’s guidance, he recognizes that hurting someone’s feelings makes everyone sad. Charlie learns that you can let someone know you are angry without damaging property.

To redirect attention and enhance social skills, the teacher gives the boys a book to to share about different types of buildings. A castle is a building and there are many types of buildings: big, small, commercial, castles, high-rise condominiums and offices. As the next activity begins, the boys decide they will try to build the biggest building in the world!

To make the most of a teachable moment:

1. Listen more and speak less. Observe behaviors and listen to conversation before jumping to conclusion and interfering in children’s activities. If there is no danger, allow the children to resolve their issue without intervention.

2. Following the incident, offer praise for using their best manners to resolve differences and not hurting anyone’s feelings.

3. Trust children to mirror the behaviors they see. Patience, kindness, respect and understanding can make a difference in the way people are perceived.

In EtiKids classes, teachable moments are used because they are the most meaningful to the child. If you have any questions about how to incorporate this method into your daily parenting routine, please do not hesitate to contact Julie.

Teachpreschool.org
has even more examples of teachable moments for you to check out!

 
 
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Research has been done about divorce and its effect on children’s development for quite some time. Although this article seems to relate to common sense, it was a surprise to find out that children are most susceptible to "side effects" of the separation during and after the divorce. Even more interesting was that math scores and social skills are those most affected by the unfortunate situation. The article, "Children of divorced lack in math, social skills" by Reuters cites time split between parents, psychological impairments (such as depression and anxiety), and parents not spending enough time with their children as reasons for the diminishing of these pertinent skills. It discusses how children are becoming increasingly more anxious and unable to focus on the tasks at hand. In today’s society, which still has an incredibly high rate of divorce among parents, this information can hopefully lead to some changes for the greater good of children. Rather than focus on what is not being done, it is important to recognize behaviors that can be changed immediately:

1) Make a schedule with children present, so they know when they will be spending time with each parent. By involving children in the process, they will feel more in control and comfortable with the situation as they will be able to predict the changes in routine.

2) Help them establish new routines in each house- and stick with them. Although divorce seems like a reason to never speak again, it is important to communicate (amicably) about the child. Attempting to create similar structures and routines in each house will help children feel safe in both locations.

3) Keep a notebook of school assignments. Each parent should be responsible for reading it. Ask the child’s teacher to contribute as well, so everyone can have information about the child. This will help all responsible parties monitor areas that are potentially becoming problematic.

4) Make sure to eat meals with together with the child. Meal time is a great way to model appropriate social skills (eye contact, table manners, reciprocal conversation). By setting the expectation that positive social behaviors should be used always, the child will begin to utilize them in situations in and out of the home. It is important to be consistent and reinforce the social skills as often as possible!

5) Nobody ever wins in divorce, but the children do not have to be the biggest losers of all. Through the use of these techniques, the child can continue to develop without negatively impact the cognitive and social growth. Contact EtiKids for more information.

 
 
Ok, ok, we know it's been a quite a while.
EtiKids blogs haven't been able to make you smile.
We've missed you tons and couldn't stay away.
We're back to give tips on using manners every day.

Social skills are important as kids get older- even more than before.
They will help your child be leaders in the classroom, on the playground, and on a school tour!
The summer has just started, so it is time to prepare.
Help your child succeed and show them you care.

Before next school year starts with a bang-
Let EtiKids help teach social skills to your gang!
So contact us with stories, comments or questions-
We are always hear to listen to and share suggestions.

Looking forward for what's to come, be prepared to hear a lot.
Just remember... It is not too early to teach your tot!

Fondly,
Julie and Co.
 
 
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Yuck! Everyone has heard the word, spoken the word or wanted to say it at least one time. It could happen eating a family dinner, tasting a new restaurant dish, sampling an unlucky-pot dish or simply nibbling at a bad meal in the home of a friend. Adults think “Yuck, this taste’s awful,” and a child might exclaim, “This is yucky!” The burning question: does one actually have to eat the food, or is there a socially acceptable way to deal with the “yuck?”

The bad food situation can arise either at home with family or in public. Often, one look at a dish with a unique presentation (fish with the head attached) or hearing the inclusion of an unusual ingredient (sardines) is enough to cause the exclamation “Yuck!” Begin exposing children to different kinds of foods at an early age, as that is the time they are most impressionable. Studies have shown that children need to be exposed to new foods 10 times before actually being able to decide whether or not they like it. Therefore, introduce it in fun and different ways. Just in time for the Halloween season are Chocolate Avocado Cupcakes with Avocado Buttercream Frosting, which can be found on the blog Chocolate and Tea (avocados are seriously mystical foods!).

Another way to lessen the stress of unwanted/"yucky" foods at mealtimes: engage children by planning meals together. Use a food chart, shopping for ingredients and teaching them how to make healthy food decisions, which will ultimately prepare children to make better choices for themselves.

Finally, parents can explain that the word “yuck” is not an acceptable way to describe food on the table and provide a suitable alternative response. If the child does not wish to try something, a simple No Thank You will suffice. After all, not wanting to sample a dish does not mean that manners should be lead astray!

It is important for children to realize a meal takes time and effort to concoct. Our EtiKids can understand preparation communicates caring for others and makes people happy. Expressing feelings by making faces or describing how yucky the food tastes is hurtful behavior and should not be excused. It is also important to be sensitive to other people's feelings; everyone does not have the same interests in food, and various choices should be respected. In EtiKids, one of our favorite phrases is "Don't Yuck My Yum!"

At the home of a friend or in a restaurant with other people, there is ample opportunity for exposure to strange or unusual foods. First, one should never say “yuck” out loud. Second, “Thank you, I’ll try a little,” is the perfect way to accept a small helping if it is a new food or one is unsure of the taste. If the flavor is too strong or tastes unpleasant, one can hide the fact by playing and pushing small pieces around the plate. Please do not feed the pet as many animals have allergies and can become very ill. Spitting into a napkin is never good manners!

Individuals with food allergies, medically restricted diets can say, “It looks delicious, but I am gluten free.” For ingredients which are unknown or suspect, “No thank you, I have a food allergy,” is a polite and acceptable answer.

As grownups, set an example and be a role model; try new foods and experiment! Try to sample different dishes and be open to new tastes and textures... But please, Don't Yuck My Yum!

 
 
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Walking into a favorite department store with one’s best friend in search of a brand new pick-me up mood lipstick, two pair of eyes immediately scan for the cosmetics department. Blocking the path? A multicolored colossal flower-print dress and flashy gold handbag furiously gesticulate within the sight line. All motor and visual motion abruptly stops. In a flash palpitations patter feverishly, saliva drips from the sides of the mouth and an overwhelming sense of panic develops. As The Dress moves closer, it is apparent... You don’t remember her name. You should know it, as introductions will need to be made. But at this moment, it has conveniently escaped. Introductions will need to be made. NOW WHAT?

Introductions are an important part of making new friendships and keeping them. There are times when introductions can be a challenge. One of the most embarrassing situations can be forgetting someone’s name. Regardless of age, it happens to everyone at one time or another. An introduction has to be made, memory fails, and suddenly a person’s name remains perched on the tip of the tongue. When this happens there are three ways to handle this:

Fess up! One can sincerely apologize and say to the person, “So very sorry for the absentminded moment, but I just forgot your name”. They may get miffed for the moment, but more often then not, they appreciate sincerity. Honesty pays and there was no running and hiding in the clothing rack to avoid saying hello! As you age, this begins to happen with increased frequency, so most people will be understanding, forgiving and may even laugh! ** (Caution: This will not work if it is a relative, child, spouse or close friend!)

Investigate! Is there someone nearby who may know who the person is? One can approach another person and simply ask, “Who is the person wearing the flowered muumuu?” This must be done quickly and discreetly but usually yields a positive result.

The Sting! This operation is a bit more complex and works on the principle that when a person meets someone, there will be mutual introductions. “Hi! We met at lunch last week. I’m Jamie, and this is my friend, Brett”. The logical response for person C is, “Yes, I remember. I’m Sam. It’s nice to see you again, Jamie, and a pleasure to meet you, Brett”. In a variation, Person A sends over Person B to introduce themselves hoping that person C will also reveal their name. Person B then reports back to person A.

To avoid forgetting an introduction, one can use memory tricks to help reinforce names. This is done by assigning a trait to the person such as Jerry has a big smile. Because Jerry and merry rhyme, the word association becomes Merry Jerry. Parents can teach and help build word associations for the children.

Whatever strategy one chooses to use, it is important to remember that people like to hear their names mentioned. Children can be taught to use the words ‘I’m sorry” or apologize for not remembering a name. That social skill is even more effective when made with eye contact! Role playing prior to a new social situation, where they are likely to meet new people, can help build confidence and increase the child’s level of comfort. Teaching children etiquette helps to prevent potentially awkward and uncomfortable situations. As we want children to meet success, we should prepare them (as best we can) for potential social mishaps and how to gracefully handle them.

OK… Now what were we talking about?

 
 
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Oh Sh#%! Da*& it! F#@*7! Hearing these words pop out of the mouth of a preschooler (or anyone else) can make hair stand straight out of one’s head. Needless to say, it usually happens at an inopportune moment such as a social gathering, in class, or at the dinner table! The 2-year-old shouting “Stupid head” or “Butthead” at passing cars usually triggers an instant alarm of fear as the parent realizes this could result in a carpool expulsion. Children are fascinated with “bad” words, and learn them quicker than their assigned vocabulary words. The initial response of laughter that the child receives is usually more than enough to fuel continuous repetitions of the offending language. The worst part is this negative behavior will take exponentially longer to break!

The issue raised is not just limited to curse words. Bathroom or potty language and words which EtiKids refers to as S-wordsM (stupid, sh*t, sucks, and shut up) can also be a problem faced by a parent or teacher. Older children may think it is “cool” to use words that describe bodily functions and noises, while younger children mimic what they hear. Sometimes repeating bathroom words is a way to get a reaction or gain attention. Realize it is a way of experimenting with language. So, if trying out new words and learning how to communicate are part of learning social skills and manners, what is the best way to re-train a potty mouth child?

Displaying a lack of interest is the simplest tactic to phase out incessant repetition of naughty expressions. Without strong feedback, most preschoolers won’t bother repeating these terms. Why bother if you can’t get a rise out of parents?

Ask the child what the word means. Discourage use of words whose meanings are unknown. Explain why some words are offensive and hurtful to other people. X-rated vocabulary and forbidden words are not “cool” and can be banned by parents because they are inappropriate in almost all situations.

Restrict bathroom words to the restroom. After a while, the child typically finds it tiresome to run back and forth to the lavatory just to talk about bodily functions and spill out potty words.

Control word categories that are on the fringe. Growing up, the use of "S-words" was not tolerated. These expressions included: stupid, sh*t, sucks and shut up. Although the latter has become an acceptable phrase of surprise (or synonym for no kidding), telling someone to “shut up” is perceived as rude and insensitive.

Monitoring TV programs can limit some exposure to words with derogatory meanings such as “butthead”, which became popular terminology following MTV's programming. Remind children that using insulting words or expressions can become a habit, slipping out without any warning and be embarrassing for everyone.

Although the word hate has different meanings, we mention it here. It can be used in a spiteful manner and is a learned behavior. Shouting “I hate you!” to a parent is universal to children all over the world. A little 4-year-old friend repeated her mother’s favorite quote, “Hate is a very strong word, and we should never use it!” The More You Know public service campaign, (NBC 2003) reminded us, "Hate is a four-letter word. So is love. Which word will you teach your child?"

Finally, the very best way to diminish the use of negative words is to set a positive example for children. Replace curse words with alternative phrases such as “Darn it! Dang! Good Grief! Geepers Creepers! Rats! Shucks!”

Let us know your favorite expression! Or most inappropriate story. :) Contact us at Dear Julie or info@etikids.com with your stories.

 
 
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You have been invited to a person’s birthday party, and the event is in a home. Do you need to bring a gift? Absolutely. Does it need to be an expensive, thought-about-it-for-days kind of present? Certainly not! Simply put, having good social skills/manners means that you never show up to another person’s home empty-handed.

Some people might argue that they were explicitly instructed to show up with just their lovely smiles. Modern etiquette would dictate that in a social situation, whether a dinner party or event, if the host had to spend time and money in order to entertain, it is expected that the guest arrive with a token of their appreciation.

Grownups, if you are at a loss as to what to bring to said occasion, a bottle of wine is ALWAYS appreciated! Should the grape varietal of wine not be what the host prefers, it can always become a re-gift. And if you have any questions about wine pairings, contact the wine guru: Stacey Blacker www.redwhitebrew.net.

Another idea is to bring a plant, as they are the environmentally-aware compromise for flowers (flowers die after a few days, but plants can live on forever). Some easy to care-for plants are: spider plants, peace plants, snake plants, cacti and bamboo.

Clearly it is inappropriate for young children to bring alcohol to an informal, adult birthday or dinner party. Instead, I would recommend having the child create an artistic masterpiece that can be handed to the host (or hostess) upon entrance to the home/event. Not only can the child utilize his/her fine motor skills and one to one correspondence in the process but parents will have an opportunity to discuss appropriate social behavior in advance.

Whether handing a bottle of wine or a picture, it is important to look the host in the eye and say “thank you for inviting me. I brought this for you.”

 
 
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Do you love the idea of entertaining but stress once people accept your proposed engagement? Most people don't realize that a considerable amount of planning is required to become the "host with the most." Visiting someone’s home can be a satisfying experience for both guest and host; responsibilities for the host begin by extending a sincere invitation. Choose a group that will have fun together and share a common interest. As RSVP’s are received, ask about any dietary restrictions or allergies (this includes pet allergies too!)

Organize. Organize. Organize. Use lists for the menu, cleaning and delegate assignments. For those individuals offering to bring something, politely provide guidance or assign a complimentary side dish. Prepare as much as possible ahead of time to decrease stress and increase enjoyment.

Greet everyone warmly and help them feel welcome by making introductions and smiling. Offer interests as topics of discussion.

Provide appetizers and/or drinks as soon as guests arrive. Who wants to drive for 45 minutes and not even get a glass of water?

Be a schmoozer and socialize with everyone. Pull those who may be isolated or uncomfortable into the folds of conversation.

Make sure guests leave safely. Walk everyone to the door as visitors exit. Thank them for coming.

The success of a gathering lies in the company of those invited. Although parties often include food, the laughter, pleasant conversation, and sharing of good times are what make the experience gratifying for everyone.

Creating that comfortable environment is the job of the host. Children can learn those skills by observation and practice. Give them a task to perform. Each child can be given age-appropriate activities and are more than capable of assisting in the kitchen. Tasks include: setting the table with some guidance, greeting guests and helping them find their seating. Create opportunities to participate in conversation – rather than monopolize -and practice using their good manners prior to having any visitors. These social skills and more are learned in EtiKids classes.

As Emily Post said, “Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use!”

 
 
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Whenever Rupert Rude had a birthday, he would never send thank you notes for the gifts he received. He always thought, “why bother? I said thank you when I opened it in front of them” (even though after the fact, he rarely remembered who gave him what). His friends, Jolly Jonny and Maddy Manners watched him play with the toys that they gave him, feeling sad that Rupert Rude never mentioned whether or not he liked the toys, let alone if he even knew where he acquired the gifts from. Staring in horror as Rupert Rude stomped on the super-cool action figure (that he may or may not have known was from them) in front of them, Jolly Jonny and Maddy Manners decided that they would never bring him a gift ever again. “It seems like he doesn’t care either way,” said Jolly Jonny. Maddy Manners tearfully explained, “we just thought that he would really like it because we know he likes blue!”

Did that situation ever happen to you? Have you ever felt like you have picked the perfect gift for somebody, only to wonder if the receiver ever liked it (or got it)?

It is ALWAYS important to acknowledge a gift with a thank you. If a guest arrives at your house with a picture that was colored just for you or a bottle of wine, you (the host) need to look the guest in the eye and say THANK YOU. A thank you note is not required for this. Up to your discretion: if you feel like a person brought you something especially thoughtful, an email is always appreciated. Of course, I wouldn’t discount the fact at how nice it is to be on the receiving end of a handwritten note of gratitude for a gift I have brought.

If the event is a special occasion, such as an engagement party, bridal shower, baby shower, or planned birthday party (to name just a few), handwritten notes are pretty much the only way to go. Although there are some schools of belief that an email is appropriate, the truly heartfelt "thank you" often seems to be in the form of a personalized thank you note. Yes, a gift means that there should be no expectation of anything upon receipt; however, people just want a testimonial of your pleasure.

Moving past the “should you” or “should you not” send a thank you argument (you should!), the ever-burning question of turn-around time: how long should you wait to send a thank you note? According to some wedding etiquette books, the time line is 6 months. I feel very strongly about the fact that a THANK YOU NOTE MUST BE WRITTEN BEFORE A CHECK IS CASHED, GAME IS PLAYED WITH, JEWELRY IS WORN OR THE GIFT IS USED!

Even young children can learn the art of a thank you note. By the time a child is two years old, he/she is capable of creating a drawing of the present received. The grownup can write the “thank you” for them. Once writing skills are developed, they can be incorporated into the picture. For example, if the child can write his/her name, add that to the drawing of the picture. The message to be taken away is that young children can learn to express gratitude for a gift (or time spent): people of any age can learn to say “thank you.”

Dear Julie can help you write the appropriate Thank You Note for each occasion.

 
 
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I promise to clean my room. I promise never to grab. I promise to take you to the game.
PROMISES are made daily.  A promise lets someone know that something will or will not be done.  Robin Thompson, author of Be The Best You Can Be – A Guide To Etiquette and Self Improvement for Children and Teens says “one of the best compliments to receive is that you keep your word.”

A promise is a pledge to oneself or someone else.  According to "Why Keeping Your Promise Is Good For You" in Psychology Today, an unkept promise to someone may be misinterpreted or can communicate a negative message.  Something else trumped the commitment. Others may perceive one is not responsible or dependable, even if the promise broken is small. Enough forgotten promises can spoil a relationship.

Sometimes a task or expectation may be overwhelming.  Responses that utilize social skills may sound like, “I’m sorry I can’t,” “I apologize, but I am not comfortable with that,” or “I just won’t be able to take the time at this moment.” Make promises that can be kept or assure someone something will be completed only if that is the true intent.  It is easier to let others know ahead of time that the task cannot be completed, so alternate plans can be arranged.  Using manners to politely decline an invitation shows appropriate social etiquette as much as accepting.

Simple steps from ehow.com to work on keeping a promise:
Assessing the situation, whether taking out the garbage or a deeper emotional commitment, one must ask if a conclusion will be possible.  Next, make a list of what is needed to follow through to completion or integration into daily activities.  Using a checklist can help one visualize accomplishments along the way; while notes help chart development.  Finally, anticipating changes and communicating progress with others allows time for assistance if required.

In conclusion, children learn by example. Unfulfilled promises send inconsistent and mixed messages. Keeping our word builds character and reinforces concepts of responsibility, strong values and dependability. Promising a child a trip to the movies only after the toys have been cleaned up can work. I promise!