Teaching Your Child the Language of Social Success was the recommendation of a friend who worked for years in the public schools. I was confessing feeling at sea with how to teach non-verbal cues to my kids, and he recommended this book. I ordered it, devoured it… and then was too nervous to start teaching it.
What if my kids don’t get it?
What if I can’t teach them social skills?
Isn’t this our biggest fear, that we won’t be able to give them some critical skill, and they will be left drifting from low-paid job to low-paid job, living in a cardboard box and drinking away their solitary hours in despair?
Up until now, piano was the hardest thing to teach my kids. Why? Because I can’t remember not playing piano. I don’t remember not knowing middle C or the musical alphabet. Thus, trying to teach my kids was frustrating. Why didn’t they get it? This is C… It didn’t take me long to outsource our piano lessons. After years, we’ve turned it into a hybrid: she teaches some lessons. When she travels, I take over. I monitor their practicing.
I can’t remember not being able to read, either, but I do remember some of the word games my dad played with us every night as he read to us. To teach my children to read, I checked out a gazillion books and began with their step-wise approach to reading. I had to shelve the panic in my heart at the thought, “What if I can’t teach them to read?”
Now I’m back in the same situation. My kid doesn’t get the idea of personal space. Or doesn’t hear the volume of her voice. How am I supposed to teach that?
Duke, Nowicki and Martin’s Teaching Your Child the Language of Social Success breaks the lessons about these non-verbal cues into manageable chunks. Explains them. Offers exercises to teach them. It’s not a boxed curriculum, like Math-U-See, that has all the manipulatives in one package paid for in 10 easy installments. It leaves the mechanics of teaching this up to me, but it has given me a place to start.
We started with personal space. Three weeks ago, I explained what personal space was. I talked about it in the context of our family (where there is none) to church and the grocery store and with friends. We watched these two clips, from The Big Bang Theory and Seinfeld. I found this vlog of Good Mythical Morning, in which they talk about and demonstrate personal space. (We watched only the first part of GMM episode about personal space in the context of airplanes, elevators, grocery store lines, in the break room at work, and with friends. We skipped on a date and with your space.)
Today we went to the mall. (When Moriah told someone we were going to the mall, she felt compelled to say, “We went once before with our grandparents.”) We bought food and sat at a table in the food court to watch people. The only child who gave me some push-back was the one who needed the lesson the most. Everyone else thought it a fine way to spend our daily “family reading time.” Reading people, not books.
Next up: paralanguage. (Their definition: “All those aspects of sound which communicate emotion and are used either independently or with words” p. 5.) Paralanguage includes whistling, humming, tone, intensity and loudness of voice. That shouldn’t take us more than a few years to pick up.
I can’t promise you results, but this is the first book I’ve read that broke down the “magic” of social interaction into teachable skills. For that, I’m grateful.