Stop, Don’t Double Dip! Learning Social Skills

We have a guest post on our blog today from Roxanne Turner.  Roxanne is a Board Certified Life Coach with extensive training in ADHD and executive functioning, focusing on the process of getting things done.


My family and I spent a long weekend just north of Burlington, Vermont over Spring break. We stayed in a beautiful yellow farmhouse — a bed and breakfast owned by a friend of mine. Having arrived at the peak of maple syrup season, we were able to check out a maple syrup farm. After we received the tour of the refining process we were treated to small taster cups with fresh maple syrup.

The family and I all had a taste and, it’s true, you can only sip on so much maple syrup. As we gathered around the table with the straight sided jug my eldest, a high schooler, decided he was done with his syrup and poured it back into the jug! Ugh!  I couldn’t believe what he’d done. I pulled him aside and didn’t mince words. So we were back to the double dip debate.

I wish I could say this is the first time this has happened, but it’s not. I frequently tell him that if he’s at a lunch interview with a prospective employer and the boss saw him do that, he could reduce his chances of being hired.

Learning social skills is mandatory part of life. For some of your kids it will be harder than others and will take more time. I still work with my elder son teaching him that it’s not okay to get up and leave a roomful of guests just because he’s tired. I always bring him back to the room and have him tell the guests he is tired and heading to bed and that is was nice to see them.

Social Thinking

One way to reframe our thought process is to think of it as “social thinking.” Michelle Garcia Winner and Pamela Crooke in their book Social Thinking At Work and Why Should We Care? explain that social skills arise from thinking. “Social thinking is about our own and other’s minds.” (p.2) To improve our own social performance, we must be able to figure out what other people are thinking, which means understanding how our own social minds work.

I have always made it clear what I expect of myself and my boys with regards to socially acceptable behavior. For example, one time when the boys were little they had dinner with some friends. The boys were eating pizza at the table, and one of their friends was crawling all over the table. Later that evening, they mentioned I would not have been okay with them having behaved that way. I asked them if they enjoyed dinner when their friend was all over the place. They said no that it was funny for about a second and then became really annoying. I reminded them that part of behaving is making other people want to be around you.

A Tip Or Two

Saying ‘thank you,’ is an especially important social skill as it is a sign of appreciation. To this day, I still have to remind the boys to thank someone right away when they receive something because it makes the other person feel good and causes them to want to do it again. I explain they wouldn’t want a grandparent to stop giving them gifts because they had failed to send thank you notes. Yes, I make my boys write thank you notes. I also model this behavior by writing my own thank you notes because I know how much I love receiving my niece and nephew’s notes.

Life gives us countless opportunities to teach our kids about social thinking and skills. It is vital that we are consistent and teach out kids what this means. If we sit back and just complain, we aren’t setting them up for success. Yes, some people might still struggle with being socially awkward in their adult years, and there are some tips and tricks they can use.

One of the best tips I learned when I was in sales was look around the client’s office to see what they have on their shelves and their walls. If you find a picture of a dog, ask about it. I shared this tip with my boys and their friend as we were talking about I expected them to go knock on the door when they pick up a girl. Sitting and honking the horn would not fly! I could see the terror in their eyes, as they asked what they could say to her parents. I shared this tip and we practiced how to do it. These kinds of interactions are way more fun with my boys rather than explaining why it’s necessary to stop pouring syrup back in the jug. That’s just gross!

Be patient and persistent with your kids of all ages to keep teaching and explaining why “social thinking” matters. How excited do you get when you meet a polite young person? At the end of the day, when your kids show appreciation by saying thank you or holding a door open doesn’t it make you feel better and a little more willing to continue training them?


Photo by Kevin Curtis on Unsplash