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Navigating Social Landscapes: Teaching Children Hidden Rules

Teaching Hidden Rules

One of the areas of weakness in children with social skill delays is understanding hidden rule. How we see this is in their inability to understand or know that you knock on the door before you enter, that you ask permission to use somebody's belongings that you are quiet in a library. I have heard from many parents that they were planning a special day to Six Flags or going to a family member's house for a new activity or a holiday dinner. This is the time where you need to sit down with your child and actually review the hidden rules in terms of how they should behave and what to expect. We spend a lot of time working on this at the center. But what we also do is set up a lot of structured, integrated activities in which they are required to apply these hidden rules in their daily interaction.

Hidden rules, though unspoken, play a crucial role in social interactions. For children with social skill delays, these rules are not always intuitive, making it important for parents and caregivers to actively teach these expectations.

These rules can include behaviors such as knocking on doors before entering, asking permission to use someone's things, or maintaining quiet in places like libraries. These rules may seem obvious to some but can be perplexing for children who do not automatically pick up on social cues.

Strategies to Teach Hidden Rules

Teaching hidden rules effectively involves a few key strategies:

  1. Explicit Teaching: Clearly explain what the hidden rule is and why it matters in specific contexts.
  2. Preparation for New Situations: Before visiting new places or attending special events, discuss the expected behaviors with your child. For instance, explain the behavior expected at a theme park or during a holiday dinner at a relative's house.
  3. Role-Playing: Use role-playing games at home to practice these rules. This makes learning fun and practical.
  4. Reinforcement in Real Settings: When out in public or in new situations, remind and praise your child for remembering and following these hidden rules.

At our center, we integrate these teachings into daily activities, providing children with practical applications of hidden rules. Parents can replicate this at home by creating similar structured activities that require the use of these rules, like setting up a pretend library where quiet is necessary.

Understanding and adhering to hidden rules are essential for social success. With patience and practice, your child can learn to navigate these rules more confidently.

Contact Us

If you're struggling with this or other behavioral issues and need more personalized advice, don't hesitate to contact us for a consultation.

At Bristow Center, we're here to support you and your child through every step of their social development.

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