Why We Must Teach Social Skills in School

social skills, high school, social intelligence, communication, There are two sides to many high school students–the funny, spirited one on IM, and the awkward, silent one in person. One of my teen interns recently joked,

“I have all of these friends that are so awesome on Facebook chat, but when I see them in the hallways at school they don’t even know how to talk to me. Isn’t it weird that online you can talk about so many private things, but in person you can barely talk about the weather?”

Over the past few years of working with and speaking to teenagers I have seen a rapid decline in social skills. As we become more technologically savvy and spend more time online, we interact with each other less and less offline, in real life. When I work with teens on issues like bullying, miscommunications in the home, social drama and low self-esteem we always end up coming back to a lack of social skills.

For example, a girl gets in a huge fight with her friend. She is too uncomfortable to approach her friend about it in person, so instead she sends her a text. The text gets misinterpreted and the friend sends a nasty text back. Before the girls know it, there is a huge texting war of mean and attacking comments. This not only could have been avoided if it had been dealt with in person, but also both girls were to afraid to resolve the fight once it got started in person because they lacked the social skills to deal with the emotional issue.

I believe that lack of social skills is one of the major causes of the increase in bullying incidents. We MUST begin to teach social skills in school. We have sex education, why not relationships 101, we have shop class, why not an explanation of social maps, we have home economics, why not a class on social skill building? Since relationships 101 classes do not exist, my teens and I have created our own and have begun to teach it in schools. We call this social literacy.

What Social Skills Should We Teach?

Social literacy is a person’s ability to interact, maintain and build relationships with others. This has also been called social intelligence or emotional literacy because social literacy involves knowing and being able to express one’s own emotions successfully.

Teaching social literacy involves teaching young people communication and social skills, as well as showing them how to effectively and purposefully mediate their interactions with family members, friends and colleagues in the school or business environment. Some of examples of social literacy issues might include lack of eye contact, understanding angry feelings versus fear or being able to deal successfully with confrontation.

The Social Skills Movement

I believe the only way we can combat bullying and equip our children how to take ownership of their relationships and communication is to teach them social literacy. At Radical Parenting we have decided to make this one of our priorities. There are a number of ways you can help:

  • If you are a parent or teacher, begin to teach your students about social literacy. Create impromptu lessons and practice with them. We have helpful guides as well.
  • If you are a parent or teacher, talk to your school about having a social skills class. We work with schools all the time to help implement a curriculum for students on relationships 101 and social skills. Let us know how we can help.
  • If you are a blogger, writer or have lots of parent friends, start talking about the need for social skills. We try to write about the importance of relationships 101 on our blog to raise awareness. The more people who know about this issue and how it is affecting our young adults, the closer we get to change. Here are some other interesting parts of this issue.

We are going to be posting more helpful information on this topic and help teaching young adults how to have healthy communication. Please help our cause!

 

Photo: Ilona from Flikr

The Science of Teen Emosocial Intelligence: Why They Act The Way They Do

I talk a lot about Emosocial intelligence on this blog. EmoSocial intelligence is a combination of emotional and social intelligence. It is first, a person’s ability to identify, assess, and control the emotions of oneself and then be able to effectively interact, maintain and build relationships with others.

In this post I wanted to talk about some of the science behind emosocial intelligence, and why teens act the way they do. I find it fascinating to know that how we process emotions, respond to them and recognize them all correlate to different parts of the brain. Below I list a few different skills and then explain where they come from in the brain.

 

Reading and Sensing Emotions: The orbitofrontal lobes, right above the orbit of the eye, are what is responsible for accurately reading, responding and sensing others emotions. Interestingly, this area acts very differently during the teen years as it is still developing.

 

Regulation of Primary Emotions: Pathways from the orbitofrontal area to the lower brain also enable a child or teen to calm primitive emotions like fear and anger and regulate the body. Brain scans of Romanian orphans who have had very little, if any physical touch have shown deficits in this part of the brain because their lack of emotionally responsive parenting. The Romanian orphanage system does this because they do not want kids to form attachments to their caregivers so it is easier for them when they leave. However, the long-term effects of this kind of parenting are far worse for the child’s emotional connections and sensitivities in the long run.

 

Self-Awareness: The ventromedial area of the brain contains pathways that are key to self-awareness. This area is also responsible for the capacity to negotiate, make decisions, resolve conflict and be a strong team player. The strong connections from the ventromedial area to the lower brain also allow teens to calm their strong feelings and focus them into smart decisions.

 

Emotional Responses: The cerebellum is located behind the brain stem, which is the lowest part of the brain. This allows us to learn how to accurately respond to what others are saying and then shift attention from one aspect of a conversation to another. Literally, the this part of the brain helps us converse with our crush, our parents or our friends.  This research is relatively new as we did not always realize that that the cerebellum is part of our social behavior. Children with autism have malfunctions in this part of the brain, which is one reason why my cousin, who is autistic cannot easily carry on a conversation with me.

 

Impulsivity and Diplomacy: Serotonin, which is produced in the brain can stabilize mood, reduce aggression and is key in promoting healthy relationships. Low levels of serotonin are associated with high impulsivity. In fact, children and teens with low levels of serotonin, find it hard to express negative feelings in a calm diplomatic way.

 

Knowing that our behavior and feelings are dictated by specific parts of the brain can be very reassuring for parents—there is a reason that your son is suddenly acting so impulsively. However, it can also be a bit frustrating. After all, if our brain dictates what we do, do we have any control over our moods, how we respond to relationships or converse with others? Yes! There are ways to develop these areas. For example, positive interactions with loved ones can increase serotonin levels and negative relationships can decrease it. Face to face interactions help increase serotonin levels—this means getting off the phone and really speaking with those in your life. Practicing mindsight is another way that researchers suggest improving these skills.

 

This is part of EmoSocial Intelligence series. If you would like to read more articles on how to read and build nonverbal communication skills in your family or with your child, please visit our EmoSocial Intelligence page for tips and updated research.

 

Citations:

Sunderland, Margot. Science of Parenting: Practical Guidance on Sleep, Crying, Play, and Building Emotional Well-being for Life. New York: Dorling Kindersley, 2006.

Social Intelligence: Teaching Social Skills to Teens and Kids

In the 1920’s Edward Thorndike wrote about multiple intelligences. One particular intelligence was called “Interpersonal Intelligence” also known as social intelligence. I have also written about this phenomenon as Social Literacy. Daniel Goleman has spearheaded much of the social intelligence research and application in his book “Social Intelligence: The New Science of Social Relationships.”

What Is Social Intelligence?

Social Intelligence (also Social Literacy) is a person’s ability to interact, maintain and build relationships with others.

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Why Is Social Intelligence Important?

Teaching social literacy involves developing and identifying communication and social skills, as well as showing how to effectively and purposefully mediate interactions with family members, friends and colleagues in the personal or business environment. Social literacy is important on a number of different levels. First, as we become more and more technologically savvy, we interact with each other less and less. Social literacy helps prevent against bullying as young people learn to express themselves correctly, handle friendship miscommunications and interact in person, not just through their devices. Second, social literacy can help with family communication in the home. Teaching family members how to read their each other and ask for what they need can bring harmony into the home. Lastly, as young people enter adulthood, social literacy becomes essential in job interviews, in adult relationships and in almost every career.

Social Intelligence for Teens and Kids

Children are spending less time with their parents and their peers. Instead, they interact through text, email, chat or social networks. Because of this, we must begin to teach our children how to have social intelligence and social skills.

One of my most popular talks for parents and students is emotional and social intelligence. Here are the principles I teach, so you can talk about them in your home or classroom. These are concepts I have pulled together from a variety of the best resources on Social Intelligence and then specialized them for families, parents, teachers, teens and kids.

  • Mindsight: Recognizing our own internal feelings and perspective. This is also called self-talk. Mindsight helps a person understand how they feel in a certain situation or on a particular issue.
  • Perceiving Emotions: This is the ability to detect and decipher emotions of others in social situations through facial expressions, pictures, voices, and cultural symbols.
  • Relationship Management: This is the ability to inspire, influence, and interact with others. This is an essential part of social intelligence for parents and teens. For teens, in incidents with bullying or issues with parents, they have to be able to effectively handle problems without creating conflict. Parents also have to successfully approach and navigate with surly or overly-dramatic teens using social intelligence skills.
  • Confrontation-management: Once a parent, teen or teacher is in conflict, social skills involve being able to control or make proper decisions based on their mindsight or perceived emotions. With strong social skills, one has the ability to use intuition or gut feelings to guide decisions. For teens especially, it involves controlling one’s emotions and impulses and adapting to changing circumstances of their environment.
  • Connectedness Gauge: We have social relationships in part to feel connected to others. Some need this more than others. Being able to properly gauge how much connection one needs to feel content, or who and how to have that deep social connection is a social skill that many teens have yet to figure out.

When teaching social skills to middle school or high school students, you want to explain each area of social intelligence. Then you can discuss examples of each area to help teens or kids identify when this happens in their own life. Luckily, social intelligence is absolutely a skill that can be taught. However, social skills, even more than emotional intelligence is more in jeopardy because of the increasing use of technology to engage in social interactions. Adults should let children explore their connectedness gauge and if it is the same for a chat online or a conversation in person. As you discuss social literacy with your family or students, apply it on a day to day basis so they can work on the areas they need most help in. Often times, as soon as they are aware that ‘social skills’ are a part of being ‘intelligent’ they are excited and enticed to learn more about themselves and how they interact with those around them.

This is part of EmoSocial Intelligence series. If you would like to read more articles on how to read and build nonverbal communication skills in your family or with your child, please visit our EmoSocial Intelligence page for tips and updated research.

References:

Social Intelligence, John Kihlstrom and Nancy Cantor, in R.J. Sternberg (Ed.), Handbook of intelligence, 2nd ed. (pp. 359–379). Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.

Goleman, Daniel. Social Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ (2006) Bantam Books.

Thorndike, E. L. (1920). “Intelligence and its uses”. Harper’s Magazine 140: 227–235.

Emotional Intelligence: How to Teach Emotional Literacy Skills to Teens and Kids

The idea that humans have multiple intelligences, or that every person has their own skill set has been popularized since the 1980’s. Emotional Intelligence, or EQ is one of the models that has grown in importance. Daniel Goleman has spearheaded much of the emotional intelligence research and application in his book “Emotional Intelligence: Why it Can Matter More Than IQ.”

What Is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence (EI) is the skill, capacity, or ability to identify, assess, and control the emotions of oneself, of others, and of groups.

Why Is Emotional Intelligence Important?

Emotional intelligence is an essential part of our day to day interactions and well-being. I think it is important in three major ways:

  1. Relationships With Others: Having a high emotional IQ helps individuals connect with others and develop deep, fulfilling relationships because they are able to read their companions, and then respond with empathy and compassion. Emotional skills are essential in working and friendly relationships.
  2. Personal Satisfaction and Contentedness: Emotional Intelligence is not only important for your interaction with others, but also for personal well-being. People who are better able to express themselves and distinguish their own emotions–whether that is guilt, anger, fear or even jealousy, are typically happier in life. They also can gauge their well-being and how they can improve it much more easily.
  3. Worldview: Emotional Intelligence helps us be empathetic and compassionate. Our emotional button is often what drives us to help another human being whether that is a homeless person on the street or giving a hand to our mother struggling with the groceries. Those who have low emotional intelligence have trouble giving back and understanding the world around them.

Emotional Intelligence and Teens and Kids

Emotional Intelligence is incredibly important for children and families. Especially as we enter a technological age, emotional skills are becoming less important and therefore less practiced. Children are spending less time with their parents and their peers talking about emotions, or attempting to read and gauge others emotions. Instead, they ‘read’ emotions through text, email, chat or Facebook status updates. Because of this, we must begin to teach our children how to have emotional intelligence skills.

One of my most popular talks for parents and students is emotional and social intelligence. Here are the principles I teach, so you can talk about them in your home or classroom. These are concepts I have pulled together from a variety of the best resources on Emotional Intelligence and then specialized for families, parents, teachers, teens and kids.

  • Self-awareness: This is when the person has the ability to read their own emotions and recognize their impact.
  • Self-management: Once a parent, teen or teacher has identified an emotion they are having. They have to learn to control it or make decisions based on it. Self-management is the ability to use intuition or gut feelings to guide decisions based on their emotions. For teens especially, it involves controlling one’s emotions and impulses and adapting to changing circumstances of their environment.
  • Perceiving Emotions: This is the ability to detect and decipher emotions in faces, pictures, voices, and cultural symbols.
  • Social Awareness: This is the ability to sense, understand, and react to others’ emotions while comprehending social status, standing and where you are in your social network of people. Actually, teens are quite good at this because social hierarchy often matters the most in High School. The key is tying their heightened social awareness to their self-awareness and then making positive relationship management decisions.
  • Relationship Management: This is the ability to inspire, influence, and develop others while successfully avoiding or managing conflict. This is an essential part of emotional intelligence for parents and teens. For teens, in incidents with bullying or issues with parents, they have to be able to effectively handle problems without creating conflict. Parents also have to successfully approach and navigate with surly or overly-dramatic teens using emotional intelligence skills.

When teaching this to students, you want to explain each area of emotional intelligence. Then you can discuss examples of each area to help teens or kids identify when this happens in their own life. Luckily, emotional intelligence is absolutely a skill that can be taught. As you discuss EQ with your family or students, apply it on a day to day basis so they can work on the areas they need most help in. Often times, as soon as they are aware that ‘feelings’ are a part of being ‘intelligent’ they are excited and enticed to learn more about themselves and how they interact with those around them.

This is part of EmoSocial Intelligence series. If you would like to read more articles on how to read and build nonverbal communication skills in your family or with your child, please visit our EmoSocial Intelligence page for tips and updated research.

References:

Mayer, J.D., Salovey, P. & Caruso, D.R. (2008). Emotional Intelligence: New ability or eclectic traits, American Psychologist, 63, 6, 503-517.

Goleman, Daniel. Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ (1996) Bantam Books.

Kluemper, D.H. (2008) Trait emotional intelligence: The impact of core-self evaluations and social desirability. Personality and Individual Differences, 44(6), 1402-1412.