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Using unconditional attention to teach social/emotional skills

Date: March 26th, 2015
By: Polly Bath

Polly Bath: When a child is an attention seeker and they don’t have the social and emotional skills to get attention in a positive way, putting them on a behavior plan that makes them earn it, will not work.

How are you able to earn social time if you don’t have any social skills?

You can’t! It’s not possible.

But… If we were to give that child unconditional attention, he would begin to see that he didn’t have to do the bad things to get attention.

For example, I once gave a child the job at the school store. People would say to me things like, “He’s not one of the good kids.” “He’s out of control.” “You can’t give him a job at the school store, he didn’t earn it!” How is this kid going to learn how to use social interaction skills if we don’t put him in a situation to do so? And I ended up having a lot of success by putting him in the school store! It was something he needed!

This same child would go every Wednesday at one o’clock to play ball with the custodian. People would want to take this away from him because he didn’t earn it. Or because he had just swore at someone. And I would remind them that playing ball was his intervention.

Now, this didn’t mean there weren’t consequences for him swearing, but we couldn’t take away playing ball with the custodian. It was an unconditional intervention.

We always have to be really careful that we don’t take the child with the social emotional difficulty and say they can’t have their intervention or that they don’t need it. Trust me, it IS needed!