Wednesday, March 31, 2010

4 Social Skills to Teach Children- Part 1

Social skills are ways to teach people how to effectively integrate into society and must be practiced on a daily basis to obtain proficiency. Learning the proper way to conduct oneself in public will be helpful when first entering school, as well as maneuvering through the working world. Mastery of proper etiquette at an early age ensures that the behaviors will become innate, as children are capable of retaining vast amounts of information. One is never too young or never too old to obtain and relay good manners. 4 Social Skills to Teach Children:

1) Ask and You Will Receive…
Nobody wants to play with Griffin Grabber! Imagine that you are making the world’s tallest tower (the Freedom Tower won’t even compare!). You use the special arced blocks to create an archway at the base and are so excited to show this to your friends. Griffin Grabber comes along and gasps because HE wants the arced blocks that are at the base of your building. Instead of asking, he thrusts his hands forward and takes them from the bottom of your building; thus, the building falls down, as the weight of the top was no longer being supported. At this point, you are pretty frustrated because there were two other arcs that he could have used for his construction, and you surely would have given them to him if he just ASKED for them.

That skill is important to learn at an early age, as it is extremely important in the years to follow. To a 4 year old, knocking down a block structure is an absolute travesty. Relating to adult terms, taking/grabbing an item from someone else will create a very sticky situation, which can be interpreted in a myriad of ways.

2) Chew With Your Lips Closed
“What am I eating? Sea Food! Get it, SEE food?!” (Show the food in your mouth). Totally unnecessary and unpleasant. When something is in your mouth, whether it is food or gum or ANYTHING, make sure to close your lips when you chew. There is a reason the human body was designed with lips that are extremely flexible flaps of skin that are able to conceal your teeth- even when they are apart. People are meant to cover their mouth with their lips, so the churning food is not visible for all to see. It also prevents one from talking with their mouth full, which is a choking hazard! Finally, it ensures that food does not wind up on the person across the table by the “say it, don’t spray it” method.

3) Thank You
Whether someone is pouring you more water, handing you that coveted toy, or staying late at work to help YOU complete a task, everyone deserves a “thank you.” Thank you is a way of saying “I appreciate what you have done” and recognize that “serving” you is not required. Plus, it is polite to acknowledge that someone has given you something, albeit services or goods. Feeling entitled to have people assist you without conceding gratitude will cause others to become resentful of your demands (and less likely to complete them).

4) Conversations take Two
When you were little, playing with the dolls, animals and other toys was entertaining, even when in solitude because YOU provided the voices and personalities of the other “people” in your play. Very rarely do we see grownups playing with Barbie or Transformers without a small child nearby; therefore, 1 person carrying on a conversation with 2+ people is not the “norm.” Since more than one person is involved in the conversation, all parties must be included and participate in the conversation. That means: one person does not do all of the talking. It is always exciting to be able to say your opinions, but it is very important to listen to those of others as well, as they want to have the spotlight, too. Asking questions is necessary, but the response must be heard. We teach this skill to children and need to remind them that everyone needs a turn to speak. There are 2 people in the conversation, not just one.

Stay tuned for more “4 Social Skills to Teach Children.” Please email Julie at if you have any questions, suggestions or comments.

PS- Check out the new Facebook Page: EtiKids!

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Unspoken Message Behind the Text...

Once upon a time, a King and Queen took their daughter and son, the Princess and Prince, out to dinner at their favorite diner. Eating out was a special occasion, and the entire family partook in conversation about their days, favorite books and movies, and upcoming events. They genuinely looked to be enjoying the family time...

If that scenario occurred in the present, it would read more like this: Once upon a time, a King and Queen took their children, the Prince and Princess out to their favorite restaurant: The King's Lair Diner. As the family sat down to dinner, all of the members put their respective blackberries on the table beside their place settings. Every other minute, a beep would be heard, and someone would pick up the phone and furiously start typing away. Conversation was limited to texted responses- "R U going 2 finish ur ff?" "IDK. FULLLLLLLL."

With technological advances appearing on a daily basis, people have been able to communicate via email and/or texting. The formality of writing letters has been replaced with incorrect grammar and informal sentences. Emotions are very difficult to ascertain without an overabundance of emoticons. LOL! :) Cousin Jackie, who types with all capital letters, always seems to be yelling at me, while Aunt Sue does the 3-sentenced email that never seems to finish any thoughts.

Don't get me wrong; people can now communicate on a regular basis. Waiting until you have time to speak on the telephone to catch up on each other's lives is no longer an issue; a quick email or text to say "hi, I am thinking of you" is a great way to maintain relationships. Unfortunately, there is a negative side to the informality and ease that is now accompanied by email and texting... Children are not learning social skills.

Eye contact is so important for humans (in the United States). It is what separates us from other species, providing us with the ability to have intimate relationships with friends and family. If the phone is placed on the breakfast, lunch or dinner table, the underlying message reads that the relationship with inanimate objects is more important than that with people. By putting the phone away during the family dinner, the grownups make it clear that the half hour spent with the family is a very important time of day. You will no longer have to wonder about the unspoken message behind the text. Instead you can just "talk it out" and never have to wonder.

According to, family dinners will not only help you become reacquainted with your children, but you and your family will become healthier individuals as a result. Seriously, the benefits keep adding up...

Modeling social skills for children by making eye contact with other people at dinner will serve to be a lifelong lesson: put down the phone and start conversing. You might learn some pretty amazing information about the person across the table... And who knows, you may actually really enjoy the company of your family...once again.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Beautiful Side of Celebrities

Last night, I went to New York Moves Magazine: Spring Fashion Launch. The cover featured Kristin Davis in all her glory, and I was fortunate to attend the premier. Being that I am typically somewhat shy, I was extremely hesitant to approach her. After all, how many times did I watch Sex and the City with my girlfriends, wishing that I was as fabulous and fashionable as the SATC foursome?

March 11, 2010, I met Charlotte York, the epitome of modern manners. Throughout the six seasons of SATC, Charlotte was a model of respect, treating everyone that she encountered with dignity (even her mother-in-law Bunny!). As she ordered her cosmos, she would make sure to say please to the waiter. She seemed to be the one who always knew what to say and when, and in her momentary lapses due to extreme emotion, she was so humanized that you were actually able to commiserate. She reprimanded the other women for not being polite and respectful to others, and she always maintained her poise. Her conservative demeanor (pearls included!) gave into the stereotype that her mannerisms and behaviors were innate, which were completely intimidating to those of us, who are not completely detailed oriented. Part of Charlotte's charm was that she acknowledged everyone with a smile or a greeting. She said "hello" and smiled, even while facing hardship.

Being a resident of New York City, I realized that one doesn't need cardigan sweaters, sundresses, or an Upper East Side apartment to don social graces. Saying thank you to the doorman as they hold open the door is absolutely necessary, but greeting everyone that you encounter on your walk out of the building (neighbors, staff...) could change someone's day. Recognizing and appreciating that we are all living and working in the same environment spreads positive energy and respect. How many times have you said hello to a child, but he or she does not respond? Although some parents will enable the behavior by saying, "oh, Johnny is just feeling a little shy today," or perhaps nothing at all, the time has come to recognize this behavior is no longer acceptable. In a society with a lowered morale due to all of the financial misgivings, personal interactions are all that is left. Although lengthy discussions are not necessary on a child's behalf, eye contact and a smile are the bare minimum (of course, do not allow your child to talk to strangers!). If your child is hesitant to engage others, turn it into a game- see how many smiles you can give out each day. This behavior needs to be practiced, but it is one that does not require any sort of dress or status; it is great just coming from you!

I totally understand that she is a character on TV; unrelated to the real life persona of Kristin Davis, but Charlotte York made having social skills fashionable. Yesterday I discovered something else: Kristin is just as well-mannered. Taking extra time to give a smile and acknowledge those who came to celebrate the occasion with her made her seem grateful of the support; regardless if it was from other celebrities or people like me. Recognizing that people are people and everyone is special truly showed the beautiful side of Kristin Davis.

On another note- watch for next week's exposé: "The Unspoken Message Behind The Text..." Email me at to share your experience with someone who only communicates via text/messenger or chat (no personal communication).

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Catch Them In The Act...

The dog park is a fascinating place to observe society. At first glance, the dogs are separated by size; large and small. Most people are respectful of the weight limit (installed to protect the dogs); however, there is always the owner who believes that rules don't apply. Meaning: the dogs are separated by size except for the special doberman and it's owner in the small dog run. I happen to go into the "Mighty-Mite" pen, as my 6 lb Chihuahua often seems like bait to the larger breeds.

A handful of pooches run around barking at each other, generally having a great time. They roll around, wag their tails, and genuinely look excited to have the space to run leash-free! Meanwhile, there are other dogs on the sidelines, anxiously licking their lips and waiting to be released from the torture (seriously, such an active place is not always the ideal situation for some). Attempting to bridge the gap and bring others into the game, some of the dogs run to the outskirts of the field, hoping to entice the unwilling. The world needs both kinds of dogs, and each is very much appreciated.

In terms of the owners, some notice their dog's obvious discomfort and stand by, lending their support (and open arms for the small guys!) to their "kids." And of course there are other "parents," who seem more concerned with reliving the previous night than ensuring their pooch's safety. Accidents happen because signals are misread (ie- the lip curling does not mean play!) and supervision is not provided. Of course, one can train the dog in the beginning, so it is able to respond in a favorable manner. Inappropriate behaviors need to be caught in the moment and corrected (with positive reinforcement when possible!). Seriously, the dog park is definitely a microcosm of modern society.

On a playground, there are some parents who do not seem overly concerned with what their child is doing; kids pushing their peers down the slide or jumping into a pile of unsuspecting victims (and of course never having anybody model appropriate behavior). However, some parents are too involved in their child's play and do not allow the child the opportunity to run and jump in an age-appropriate manner. The most effective parenting style is to allow children the freedom to be kids, but catch them in the act when they are not behaving in a style that is socially acceptable. Throwing sand will surely lose many friendships in the sandbox. Much like the dog park, catch the child in the act, use a quick "no" and redirect their actions. Attempt to reward for good behavior (more playtime) and leave the park if they are not getting the message. After all, everyone should feel comfortable; whether in the dog run or on the playground.

Not to mention that your child might be behaving perfectly fine, but another child is monopolizing the equipment, and the caregiver is on the cell phone, unaware of the child's actions. As mentioned in, you can firmly remind the child that everyone is taking turns. Although it is not your place to discipline another person's child, pointing out social cues to the child will help him/her in this situation and perhaps in the future.

Of course parents need a break (it is SO hard to be on 24/7!); however, playgrounds are optimal teaching "grounds." If you can instill the values early on, so they become innate behaviors, the rewards will pay off immensely. Children can learn lessons on how to behave, respect others, wait their turn and listen to adults (and peers!), but the skills need to be taught right in the moment. Meaning, regardless of how well behaved (or not) your child is, inappropriate behaviors that are corrected, while in the actual situation, are always the most successful.

Thursday, March 4, 2010


Please. That word is music to my ears. Seriously, when ANYONE asks me for something, but includes the word please, I admit that I am much more willing to go the extra mile. Perhaps it is the fact that what one wants seems to be a request than a demand.

Since you were old enough to speak, it wasn't what was said but HOW it was said. If a boss said "give me the reports," I bet you would be much less enthusiastic than if it was phrased "please give me the reports by the end of the day." Having the courtesy to include the word please is very much appreciated by people. Wanting to feel valued in and how a task is done, "please" feels like you are being asked, and you are given a CHOICE.

By offering a choice to someone, you are giving them the opportunity to provide their input. When dealing with a child, which phrase do you think will work better: "you are wearing the red shirt today" or "which shirt do you want to wear today, the red or the blue?" Allowing the child some independence by providing him/her the ability to make a decision will reduce the amount of stress and anxiety during dressing. Controlled choices (or chosen choices) are the clear winners in present-day parenting methods. After all, your child is a mini-you, and if you like choices (and the opportunity to speak your mind!), you can bet your child feels the same way.

The same is true with the word please. If you offer someone a controlled choice by asking for something with the word please, you will be amazed at the outcome. So just for today, take note of how many times you ask for something, and how many times you said please... You will be surprised at how many moments are missed to improve the rapport between you and the person you are making a request of.

That being said, it is time to ensure that children are using the magic word to ask for something they want. With just a little bit of coaching, the word please can become a regular part of the child's vocabulary, which will in turn make dealing with the said child much more pleasant. If we don't want them to become those grownups who constantly order others around and have little success with interpersonal relationships, it is time to crack down now. Please.