Skills Facilitating Peer Acceptance
Even in infancy and toddlerhood, some children in a group are approached by peers while others may be ignored. Researchers have identified three basic skills that promote peer acceptance in young children (Asher, Renshaw, and Hymel, 1984).
- Initiation skills. Children who are socially successful find ways to be accepted, such as mentioning interests in common or offering to bring something different to the play (Gottman, 1983). For example, they may say to another child, "We both are using red paint." Another child, wanting to join the group playing with blocks, may say, "Here is a truck we can use on your block road." Room is made for Johnny to join them.
- Conflict Resolution. Conflicts occur frequently in the play environment. Successful children learn how to react nonviolently to these conflicts. One way to deescalate the disagreement is for the child to provide a reason for her or his position and/or offer another idea. Mary might say to her friend, "That was my toy. I will get you another truck" or "As soon as I finish playing with the puppet, I will give it to you. " Another way would be to compromise: "You can play with this if I can have... "
- Maintenance. Children who are positive, show affection, exchange ideas, and have an attitude of we-ness will tend to maintain the play activity and form and maintain friendships (Gottman, 1983). Mary might say to her friends, "Do you think I should put different clothes on the doll?" A verbal request is much better than a physical demand. "Can I put these pajamas on your baby doll?"
Bierman and Furman (1984) reports that training in social skills seems to increase children's popularity with peers. Preschool children, unable to play successfully with their own age group, have been helped when placed in a group of children approximately one year younger. They gain social skills and often return successfully to their age group in a short period of time.
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