Skills Facilitating Peer Acceptance (page 2)
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.
Adult Support in Development of Peer Acceptance and Friendships
Secure parental attachments, good parental relationships, and healthy parental emotional expressiveness in the home are linked with good peer relationships (Cassidy, Parke, Butkovsky, and Braungart, 1992). Infants who are securely attached at age one show greater social skills during their preschool years than those infants who are not. These securely attached children approach other children more freely, are more empathetic, and show greater leadership (Lieberman, 1977). Peer acceptance is a predictor of later social and emotional adjustment and cognitive adequacy (Hartup, 1991). Parents foster healthy social development in their children when they are affectionate, show interest in their children's feelings, support and express parental pride in their activities and accomplishments, and provide support during times of stress (Moore, 1992). Authoritative parents usually are nurturing and enforce moderate levels of control over their children's behavior. These parents praise good behavior and try to model positive social responses.
Peer conflict is an important form of social interaction and can contribute to children's development (Rende and Killen, 1992; Ross and Conant, 1992). Teachers can help children develop strategies for resolving conflicts without needing adult intervention. During conflicts, teachers help children understand their own actions and help them explain their behavior to each other. Adults' praise for children's positive social actions also reinforces this behavior.
Competition in a group increases the likelihood of aggressive behavior. Teachers who provide cooperative learning tasks in the classroom give children an opportunity to work with others and experience prosocial behavior. Teachers can model prosocial behavior in their actions with children, other teachers, and parents.
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