Teaching Positive Social Interaction Skills

Children come to school with varying levels of social competency. In Ako Timatanga, we recognise the value of spending time on teaching specific social skills to help children develop in this area.

While the teaching of social skills consumes time during the school day, it is an investment that results in school life becoming easier and more rewarding for students and teachers. Students are explicitly taught more appropriate behaviours.

The goal is for all of our students to interact positively with others.

McIntyre, T. Teaching Social Skills to Kids Who Don’t Have Them. Dr. Mac’s Amazing Behavior Management Advice Site. (www.behavioradvisor.com) has summarised our approach perfectly:

In order to promote more socially skilled and appropriate actions among our pupils, we must move beyond simply telling them to stop what they are doing wrong. While we might tell them which behaviours to avoid, we then need to teach them what they should be doing in those situations.

 We must teach the skills we wish to see.

Here are examples of specific social skills we teach in Ako Timatanga:

  • Manners and positive interactions with others
    • approaching others in socially acceptable ways
    • making and keeping friends
    • sharing toys/materials
  • Appropriate classroom behaviour
    • work habits
    • listening
    • attending to tasks
    • following directions
    • seeking attention properly
    • accepting the consequences of one’s behaviour
  • Better ways to handle frustration/anger
    • counting to 10 before reacting
    • learning an internal dialogue to cool oneself down and reflect upon the best course of action
  • Acceptable ways to resolve conflict with others
    • using words instead of physical contact
    • seeking the assistance of the teacher

New York Times best-selling author Robert Fulghum wrote a book in 1986 titled All I Really Need To Know, I Learned In Kindergarten The book begins with a list of kindergarten lessons including “Share everything,” “Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody” and “Be aware of wonder.”

While Fulghum is not an education scholar, it turns out that he was onto something. Decades later, research shows that these are the lessons that children need to learn early on.

A meta-analysis published in the Journal of Psychology (link is external) found that children who attended preschool programs focused on social and emotional development were less likely to engage in antisocial behaviours such as breaking the rules, physical aggression, cheating and stealing later in life.

This research underpins why we give priority to teaching social skills to our young learners in Ako Timatanga.

We also recognise that a child’s sociality depends not so much on how many children they play with as it does on their emotional stability, their sense of self-worth, and their unselfish concern for others. These usually reflect the quality of parental example and the strength of their attachment to warm and consistent parents.

Warm, consistent responses are the most powerful positive socialising forces a child can know.

To enhance your child’s social development further, Lawrence Balter, Ph.D., child psychologist and parenting expert, suggests the four strategies below.

Teach empathy: Run through different scenarios by asking your child how other people might feel when certain things happen, and substitute different situations each time.

Explain personal space: Tell your child that it’s important for everyone to have some personal space to feel comfortable, and practice acceptable ways to interact with someone during playtime.

Practice social overtures: Teach kids the proper way to start a conversation, get someone’s attention, or join a group of kids who are already playing together. These are all situations that can be discussed and brainstormed at the dinner table, or in the car on the way to school or activities.

Go over taking turns: Sit with your child for at least an hour a day and play with them to explain what it means to wait, take turns, and share.


There are plenty of good apps available that reinforce social skills. “Model Me Going Places” allows kids to look at photos of other children modelling appropriate behaviour in certain situations (the hairdresser, doctor, playground).

“Responding Social Skills” teaches kids how to respond to others and how to understand others’ feelings.

“Small Talk” presents conversation fillers for awkward social moments.

But if your child still seems to have difficulty keeping up with the skills they should be developing for their age group, it may be time to give them a little help.

“Some children have problems with impulse control and self- regulation; some have a problem with processing information,” Dr. Balter says. “These issues can lead to [kids] having awkward interactions with peers.” So if social issues cause your child fear or make them feel isolated, seek help from your paediatrician or another child expert, such as a therapist.





  • Erin says:

    Such important learning that will support our children for the rest of their lives. Love the way you both support this learning for children in such a patient, calm and consistent way. We love so many things about Ako Timatanga

  • Moya (Granma). says:

    Keep up the good work Pukeoware School. You are doing a great job. Luv Grandma. X

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