Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Social Skills Jesus' Way

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
~ Philippians 4:8, NIV ~

Oh, the start of a new school year!  Not only do we need to set systems in place for protecting our children in the mix of all those other students, but we also have to shape their character where it may be significantly underdeveloped.   

It seems no other environment  will test our children's social skills quite like the school house.  That cauldron of different home situations, assorted family values, mixed together with academics, figuring out friendships, and endless conflicts seems to create the ultimate test of what is acceptable and what is not.  Self-control with blurting out, making appropriate comments, focusing on work rather than peer distractions, and dealing with those who are unkind can push our challenged kids far beyond their limits.

When I printed out the class list for this school year, a certain individual with "alphabet soup" diagnoses in our household began making very harsh and opinionated comments about other students both in and outside of their class.  Given the intense struggle we have had with that same individual in our household the past 2 school years, I had to nip that right in the bud!

Given this child's difficulty with theory of mind and processing where the social boundary lines lay, I decided it was time to adopt a year of  "Social Skills Jesus' Way".  After all, God tells us that His word does not return to Him void, but accomplishes the purpose for which it was sent forth.  (See Isaiah 55:11)  So, I sat down together with this particular child, reading Philippians 4:8.  We pulled it apart, then put it back together as a checklist for comments coming out of the mouth.  I created the nifty little reminder pictured above, and printed it out on a nice 8 1/2 " x 11 1/2" sheet of paper, BIG enough to be noticed.

Of course, with the impulsivity monster always trying to elbow its ugly self into the driver's seat, more rants about certain kids at school were heard being discussed with other family members.  I had no need to even say a word of verbal correction, only to hold up my little Phil 4:8 reminder.  It stopped my child abruptly.  This one has been bullied before, so I am hoping that skills can be built by awakening memories of what it feels like to have others say something unkind about you and to you.

I'm taking this one all the way to the teacher meeting this year (in a public school no less) for team reinforcement.  Wish me luck!

PRAY:  Lord, put Your arm around my shoulder, and Your hand over my mouth when I am about to do a poor job of modelling socially appropriate remarks about others.  Let me speak words that edify rather than criticize, and help me to teach my child to do the same.  We want our talk to bring You glory rather than tear others down. 

~ Barb Dittrich