In my last blog I addressed the idea of “faking it.” This is a concept that I have often used when teaching social skills, especially for those kids (mostly adolescents) who say they just don’t care or don’t want to engage with others.
Using the concept of being an actor like in a TV show or movie (using characters the child is familiar with when possible) I explain that to ‘fit in’ in a particular context, there are expected roles that we each play. Remember, I am always going to look at the unique needs of the individual and am not forcing any child to engage in ways that they wish to avoid. I respect neurodiversity, but I also believe that we need to help kids learn the skills they need to live in the current world.
I talk about the roles each child has a son/daughter, student, sibling, friend, neighbor, swimmer, etc. This lays the groundwork for talking about context. Context is the stage of any social interaction. When you’re in situation ‘x’ it may be different than situation ‘y’ and your behavior has to adjust to the context.
For example, running around and screaming may be acceptable on the school playground, but not in the classroom. Saying “yo dude” may be okay with your friend, but not your teacher. It is the context that determines what is culturally considered ‘acceptable’ and it’s that skill of learning about what to do in certain contexts that is the basis for all social skills.
When I am confronted especially by adolescents who say “I don’t care,” or “I don’t want to,” that’s when teaching them about ‘faking it’ can be especially valuable. They don’t have to like the skills we’re teaching. But, they do have to learn them if they wish to ‘fit in’ as we all do.
When they complain that no one likes them, that they get picked on, that they’re not included in activities they wish they were, I remind them how hard it is for the actor to show up early on the set, or to stay late to finish the scene, to work with other actors they may not like, or to pretend to be a mean person when they are not. They do it for the paycheck; it’s their job. Our kids have a job too. Learning to be socially skilled (to the best of their abilities) in ways that will serve them for a lifetime.