Tier 2 Part II – Promoting Children’s Friendship Skills

Children show challenging behaviors for different reasons, but a critical one to note is: they don’t have the skills to be more successful… yet!

When we TEACH children needed social-emotional skills, negative behaviors decrease, and social and cognitive outcomes improve.

Last month, we introduced Tier 2 of the Pyramid Model and looked at one example of targeted social-emotional supports: strategies for teaching social problem solving.

This month, we’ll examine another Tier 2 support, promoting friendship skills and we’ll share our new Promoting Friendship Skills Professional Development Suite on the VPI+ website.

Promoting Children’s Friendship Skills: The What and Why

Friendship skills help children engage in and maintain positive relationships with peers.

These skills include:

  • sharing
  • taking turns
  • joining and organizing play
  • giving compliments; and
  • helping others.

To know which friendship skills to teach, we need to look underneath the surface of challenging behaviors for the skills that are lacking.

For example, think of a child who has arguments with peers that sometimes escalate to grabbing toys and hitting.

Source: istock/Zabavna

What could we teach her to prevent or reduce these conflicts? If I observe that this child often argues over who gets to play with preferred toys, we might focus on turn-taking!

Or, for a child who invades peers’ space to get attention, we might teach and support the skill of joining play.

Friendship skills are important to teach – not only children with challenging behavior, but ALL young children – because they support a key part of children’s social skill development, which helps children who struggle with building positive relationships and also helps all children broaden their network of friends.

4 Strategies for Promoting Friendship Skills: The How

#1  Classroom expectations that support a friendly environment, like this (see p.4)

CSEFEL Super Friend: Classroom Expectations
Click on pic to download Super Friend social story (see Expectations on p.14)

#2 Explicitly teach skills using books or social stories, like these:

CSEFEL Super Friend social story; CSEFEL Book Nook: Rainbow Fish
Click on pic to download Book Nook

#3  Visual prompts and reminders, like these (see p.5):

CSEFEL Super Friend cue cards
Click on pic to download Super Friend story (see Cue cards p. 16)

#4 Peer pairing

source: UVA-CASTL

Our Professional Development Suite dives into #4, Peer Pairing.

For a taste of what’s in the PD Suite, see some introductory information and videos below.

Introducing the Peer Pairing Strategy

Peer pairing is a technique for intentionally pairing children to maximize opportunities for learning and practicing friendship skills. Using peer pairing effectively involves a few steps:

  • Before play: Planning peer pairing
  • During play: Providing support
  • After play: Reflecting and reinforcing

Before play: Planning peer pairing [Video: 3:56]

After play: Reflecting and reinforcing [Video: 1:50]

A note: Many children often need adult support in the moment to be successful—and yet, providing extra support during peer pairing is often the part that’s most difficult to do (there’s no script; we don’t know what may happen and what kind of support children may need). Look at our PowerPoint presentation linked below for a bonus video on “Providing Extra Support During Play” (see slide 16) as well as tips and planning ideas!


What Can I Do? Supporting Teachers to Use these Strategies

The resources below can help you support teachers to build children’s friendship skills.  Go to our Promoting Friendship Skills Professional Development Suite to view and download our complete set of resources for training and supporting teachers, including:

  • PowerPoint presentation with embedded videos
  • Action planning form for teachers to use during planning (with coach/supervisor support)
  • Fidelity checklist of key practices for use during planning and follow-up observations by coaches/supervisors
  • Handout on promoting friendship skills
  • Other key resources from CSEFEL and VKRP (as linked above)

Next month, be ready for us to tackle Tier 3—a process for helping children with persistent challenging behaviors.

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