“I know my son wants to make friends, but when he plays with others, the kids complain that he is being bossy.”
“My daughter came home from school and told me that she has no one to play with during recess.”
“I think my middle-schooler doesn’t know how to begin a conversation. He’ll say ‘Hello’ to his peers and then look down at his shoes.”
These children, along with many others, likely have trouble navigating social interactions. They may have difficulty understanding other people’s point of view and recognizing how their behaviors impact the way others feel about them. Although some of these children have specific disabilities, such as autism spectrum disorder, many typically developing children also struggle with mastering age-appropriate social skills.
We used to think that social ability was a fixed trait, and that some people were naturally better at navigating social interactions than others. Thanks to the pioneering work by Michelle Garcia Winner and her colleagues, we now know that social skills can be learned with guidance and repeated practice. The process called Social Thinking (1) helps people realize that during their interactions they have the power to affect the thoughts and feelings of others. In this article, we will explore the concept of Social Thinking further.