The classroom setting is very much like a family setting. Just like any family, there are certain social norms and rules that should be followed for a productive environment. Children spend the majority of their time during the week inside the school setting, so educators are in a unique position to shape social skills and behaviors in order to best foster academic growth and success.
Parents have the most challenging and fulfilling job—not only to raise them to be productive members of society but also to instill in them behaviors that make our society better as a whole. The home setting is where parents can build the framework and foundation for these appropriate social norms and rules.
As the saying goes…it truly does take a “village” to raise a child. Parents and educators must be consistent in their methodology to foster social awareness and understanding.
At The Village School in Houston, we incorporate the Capturing Kids’ Hearts program into our educational environment and strive to ensure it is easily transferable into our students’ home routines. This amazing program focuses on culture and climate as the backbone for creating a truly great school experience. It prides itself on improving classroom culture, and positively impacting student performance, attendance rates, and discipline. And it also shows teachers how to create high-achieving learning centers built on positive relationships. Students’ connectedness to others is strengthened through healthy bonds with their teachers and collaborative agreements of acceptable behaviors. While this program takes place predominantly in school, we’ve seen great results outside the classroom as well.
Collaboration Is the Key to Success
To ensure success, everyone should have an opportunity to brainstorm and share what they feel would best benefit the environment and foster positive relationships. As a parent at home, it is important to lead the discussion and facilitate an open line of communication between all members of the family. The more fun you make this collaborative process, the more engaged every family member will be with a social contract structure within the home setting.
To get started, I recommend you obtain a copy of your child’s classroom social contract. This can be helpful for keeping the language and messaging consistent. If your child doesn’t have a social contract at school then create your own with your family.
Patience is key and making sure you allot time for open communication. Start off with a few questions about communicating, problem-solving and beyond such as:
How do you want to be treated by me?
How do you want to be treated by each other?
How do you think I want to be treated by you?
How do you want to treat each other when there is conflict?
As a guide, think about the typical character traits (i.e.: respect, empathy, acceptance, understanding, etc.). Once you’ve openly discussed these questions, write down the key factors and post it somewhere central for easy reference.
Commit to the Agreement
Have each family member sign the document! This allows you to go back to review what was originally agreed upon. Remember that this is ideally a self-management tool that individuals can reference to make the best choices possible.
At the beginning of my social skills groups, the participants and I develop a social contract for our expectations. Any sessions that follow involve a quick upfront discussion of what social norms and rules we agreed upon. If we do happen to have a behavioral issue within the social skills group, we immediately refer to the social contract to help coach the individual back to the agreed-upon expectation.
One example of the social contract program working at home could be everyone agreeing to the no-phone rule at the dinner table. When a family member is tempted to bring out their phone, they remind each other of the social contract and agree that dinner time is family time.
The Benefits of a Social Contract
This cultural change can have an enormous impact in the home setting. If your family is committed to the contract, you’ll see an increase in connectedness, a healthier social-emotional climate, behaviors that are more aligned toward social and emotional safety, and positive child self-management. The best benefit is that a social contract teaches self-responsibility which is such a critical component to everyday life.