Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Teachable Moments

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 presents the boys with 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. has even more examples of teachable moments for you to check out!

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