Teachers can use self-instruction techniques to teach children an organized approach to solve social problems like settling arguments and fighting; also to cope effectively with angry feelings and with feelings of frustration. To solve the problem, we can train the child to ask, “What am I supposed to do?” and then, the child follows these steps:
- Look at all the possibilities or look at all the different answers so you can find the best possible solution.
- Focus in. Concentrate or think hard about just the problem you are working on right now. Do not look or think about anything else.
- After you study all the different choices, pick an answer.
- Check out your answer. If you got it right, tell yourself you did a good job. If you did not get it right, you do not have to put yourself down. Just remind yourself to be more careful or to go more slowly on the next try. (Kendall and Braswell, 1985)
Teach students to use self-questioning. Questions help in organizing the steps needed to solve the problem. For example:
- What is my problem? Alternatively, what am I supposed to do?
- How can I do it? Alternatively, what is my plan?
- Am I using my plan?
- How did I do? (Bash and Camp, 1980)
Teach students to combine self-questions and self-statements with problem-solving. Children can use an outline similar to this:
- What is my problem?
a) Identify the problem
- What am I supposed to do now?
a) Look at all the possibilities
b) Pick an answer
- How can I do it?
- How am I doing?
- Did it work?
a) (Yes) Say, “I did a good job.”
b) (No) Say, “Things will work out. Let me try something else.”
Kendall and Braswell (1985) also outlined the content of most self-instruction problem-solving training programs for impulsive children. Students learn to generate self-statements related to five phases:
- Problem definition. The impulsive child uses self-statements that help identify the problem and its relevant features.
- Problem approach. The child uses self-statements that define a strategy for dealing with the problem.
- Focusing of attention. The student reminds himself to concentrate on the problem and on the strategies that he will use to solve the problem.
- Choosing an answer (strategy). The child uses self-instruction (self-talking) to narrow the problem-solving process to one particular strategy.
- Because of the problem-solving actions completed, the child uses either self-reinforcing statements or coping statements.
a) Self-reinforcing. The child recognizes success in addressing the problem, for example, saying, “I did a good job.”
b) The student uses coping statements to address constructively any failure to deal with the problem or situation; also, to remind himself what to do when confronting a similar problem the next time. For example, saying, “Okay, that did not go well. Next time, I’ll remember to use my strategies.”
Meichenbaum and Goodman (1971) listed the steps to teach impulsive children to talk to themselves. These steps are still widely used in today’s classrooms, and we can use them to train impulsive children in completing academic tasks (e.g. solving long division or writing an essay) as well as in handling social problems and conflict.
- Cognitive modeling. The coach performs the task while verbalizing aloud.
- Overt, general guidance. The child performs the same task while self-instructing aloud.
- Faded, overt self-guidance. The child performs the task while whispering self-instructions.
- Covert self-instruction. The child performs the task while using private speech (silently) to give self-direction.
The content of the child’s verbalizations may include:
- Questions about the characteristics and demands of the task
- Answers to the questions focusing on planning
- Self-statements that help the student guide own behavior in how to complete the task (steps)
- Self-reinforcing statements
Bash, M. A. S., & Camp, B. W. (1980). Teacher training in the think aloud classroom program. In G. Cartledge, & J. F. Milburn (Eds.). Teaching social skills to children: Innovative approaches (pp.143-178). Elmsford, NY: Pengamon Press.
Kendall, P. C., & Braswell, L. (1985). Cognitive-behavioral therapy for impulsive children. New York: Guilford.
Meichenbaum, D. H., & Goodman, J. (1971). Training impulsive children to talk to themselves. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 77, pp. 115-126.
****A Note from Carmen****
For detailed information in self-management procedures and in problem-solving procedures, you can read my blog postings:
What are Coping Skills? Part Two: Social Skills Training and Assertiveness
What are Coping Skills? Part Three: Social Problem Solving
What are Coping Skills? Part Four: Teaching Children How to Self-Manage Behavior
Think Positive to Stay Positive: Teaching Children the Benefits of Using Positive Self-Sentences
Classroom Management: Using a Problem-Solving Sheet to Settle Conflict between Students (Reproducible)
Anger Management for Children: Using Self-Talking to Defuse Angry Feelings
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