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Social Skills: Promoting
Positive Behavior, Academic Success, and School Safety
Good social skills are critical to successful
functioning in life. These skills enable us to know what to say, how to make
good choices, and how to behave in diverse situations. The extent to which
children and adolescents possess good social skills can influence their academic
performance, behavior, social and family relationships, and involvement in
extracurricular activities. Social skills are also linked to the quality of the
school environment and school safety.
While most children pick up positive skills
through their everyday interactions with adults and peers, it is important that
educators and parents reinforce this casual learning with direct and indirect
instruction. We must also recognize when and where children pick up behaviors
that might be detrimental to their development or safety. In the past, schools
have relied exclusively on families to teach children important interpersonal
and conflict resolution skills. However, increased negative societal influences
and demands on family life make it imperative that schools partner with parents
to facilitate this social learning process. This is particularly true today
given the critical role that social skills play in maintaining a positive school
environment and reducing school violence.
Consequences of Good Social Skills
With a full repertoire of social skills,
students will have the ability to make social choices that will strengthen their
interpersonal relationships and facilitate success in school. Some consequences
of good social skills include:
- Positive and safe school environment.
- Child resiliency in the face of future
crises or other stressful life events.
- Students who seek appropriate and safe
avenues for aggression and frustration.
- Children who take personal responsibility
for promoting school safety.
Consequences of Poor Social Skills
Students with poor social skills have been
- Experience difficulties in interpersonal
relationships with parents, teachers, and peers.
- Evoke highly negative responses from others
that lead to high levels of peer rejection. Peer rejection has been
linked on several occasions with school violence.
- Show signs of depression, aggression and
- Demonstrate poor academic performance as an
- Show a higher incidence of involvement in
the criminal justice system as adults.
Impact on School Safety
Given the demonstrated relationship between
social skills and school safety, schools are increasingly seeking ways to help
students develop positive social skills, both in school and in the community.
Social skills related to school safety include:
- Anger management
- Recognizing/understanding others' point of
- Social problem solving
- Peer negotiation
- Conflict management
- Peer resistance skills
- Active listening
- Effective communication
- Increased acceptance and tolerance of
In isolation, social skills are not sufficient
to ensure school safety; interventions should not be limited to student
instruction and training. Change in the school culture should be facilitated by
infusing social skills training into a comprehensive system of school safety and
discipline policies, emphasizing relationship-building between students and
faculty (teachers and administrators) and between schools and families, and
providing effective behavior management and academic instruction.
Defining Types of Social Skills
While there are hundreds of important social
skills for students to learn, we can organize them into skill areas to make it
easier to identify and determine appropriate interventions. For example, the
"Stop and Think" program organizes skills into four areas:
1. Survival skills (e.g.,
listening, following directions, ignoring distractions, using nice or brave
talk, rewarding yourself)
2. Interpersonal skills
(e.g., sharing, asking for permission, joining an activity, waiting your turn)
3. Problem-solving skills
(e.g., asking for help, apologizing, accepting consequences, deciding what to
4. Conflict resolution skills
(e.g., dealing with teasing, losing, accusations, being left out, peer pressure)