Sunday, October 7, 2012

Communication Tools for Boys

Older Toad has some issues with interpersonal skills.  Often, he doesn't mean any ill will towards others but he doesn't understand how his verbal and non-verbal cues are being interpreted.  Sometimes he is pushing buttons.  This has pretty much always been an issue for us and we continue to work on it.  This year has been better.  I'm attributing the improvements to better health (aren't we all unpleasant when we don't feel good) and all the work we've put in as a family towards helping him improve.

It's tough knowing how to help a young kid with social issues.  How do you pitch it to their level and make it constructive and concrete?  I came up with this project midway through last school year and have referred back to it all year.  Younger Toad can be very unpleasant (of course he is three and this is pretty typical for a three year old) and I'm guessing we will be revisiting this idea for him very soon.

We called them our Go, Caution, Stop charts.  Little boys love vehicles.  I thought I might have some success with these abstract concepts if I pitched it all around vehicles.  I primed the pump with some Bob the Builder, Thomas the Train and documentaries on vehicles of all sorts.  Then I made up 4 pieces of large paper with equal green, yellow and red stripes running vertically, leaving room at the top for a title.

I labeled them Eyes, Ears, Voice, Body.  The idea being we'd have one chart for each of our communication strategies.  Then we sat down and I explained traffic signals and how they regulated cars.  This got vigorous head nodding as Toad already knew that.  I then compared that to our behavior as people;  sometimes we treat others great (car's cruising along), sometimes we're walking on the edge (car better slow down), and sometimes we treat people badly and need to stop our behavior (car better stop).  He seemed to get the analogy right off.  I did the writing and asked him what he thought were good behaviors; with his body for example, ones that could be interpreted badly and ones that were never ok.  Once he listed all his choices, I offered some suggestions.  We went through all the charts in about a week.

I typed up his work below. 

After they were done, if he started in with something that we'd determined was a yellow, he'd be asked to switch that behavior to a green.  He frequently goes straight to red but it at least gave us something to point to and say "We've agreed this is not ok.  How are you going to modify your actions to tone it down into the green zone?"


  • Hugs and kisses
  • Showing appreciation
  • Face to face talking
  • Body language matches words

  • Pointing with our fingers
  • Walking away when people are speaking
  • Fidgeting
  • Leaving without communicating to the other person
  • Moving around when you're talking

  • Not being safe
  • Hitting
  • Invading others' space
  • Disrupting other people's work
  • Taking other people's things
  • Silly body language
  • Angry body language


  • Pointing your voice to the person you're talking to
  • Calm volume
  • Speak calmly
  • Speak slowly
  • Nice tone to your voice
  • Apologize when you're wrong

  • Interrupting
  • Talking too fast
  • Whispering

  • Funny mouth movements
  • Silly noises
  • Yelling
  • Whining

  • Looking toward someone when they're speaking
  • Looking toward someone when you're listening
  • Calm eyes

He didn't have any here

  • Looking away from someone when they're speaking
  • Squirly eyes


  • Listening carefully while someone's is speaking
  • Listening carefully when you're far away from the person speaking

  • Listening while doing something else

  • Not listening to someone when they're speaking
  • Plugging your ears when listening or speaking

I picked vehicles and these colors because I thought they'd appeal in my house.  You could of course adjust this project to many themes or color schemes.

If you've got any great suggestions for helping kids with their communications skills, I'm all ears!


Lisa Nolan @ Life Happens said...

I really like this concept! A helpful, positive (but not a door-mat kind of way) to help young children both self-regulate and learn age-appropriate social skills! I may just borrow it for my son who is eight with Down syndrome! He's very social (it's his saving grace) but he does still have communication problems and uses his behavior instead of his words.

toady mama said...

Lisa - I hope it work for you too. Thanks for sharing.

Bonny Yokeley said...

This is a wonderful idea to help kids learn social skills. Thanks for sharing!

toady mama said...

Thanks Bonny!

Kelly Scott said...

What a good idea! When a child understands how to communicate, on all levels, they are able to experience so much more than we can imagine. I bet your son will uses this concept in other areas of his life. Thanks for linking up with us at No Ordinary Blog Hop. Every blessing, Kelly.

toady mama said...

Thanks Kelly!

Rebecca English said...

That's a great idea. Love how you related the concept to something he enjoys.

Thanks for linking to the Sunday showcase.

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