social emotional learning kelsoA question we often get is: does Kelso’s Choice promote social emotional learning? The answer is: it absolutely does.

First, what is social emotional learning? To answer that, CASEL (The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning) says the following: “Social and emotional learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.”

CASEL identifies five areas of social and emotional learning to be promoted in classrooms, school-wide, and at home. They are:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-management
  • Responsible decision-making
  • Relationship skills
  • Social awareness

How does Kelso’s Choice promote social and emotional learning?

Kelso’s Choice is a system of conflict resolution. Developed 25 years ago by Diane Hipp, CPS and Barbara Clark, PhD, former Child Development Specialists, it provides tools for counselors, clinicians, teachers and parents to empower children to resolve their own small conflicts, and identify the differences between small conflicts and big ones.

Kelso’s Choice provides a cognitive structure of nine tangible skills that can be used to solve “small” problems. Some benefits of Kelso’s Choice includes that it helps:

  • Empower young people with the ability to determine their own
    behavior, encouraging an internal locus of control and appropriate
    problem ownership.
  • Reduce Tattling through a proactive, preventative approach that
    keeps small problems from escalating and prevents negative attentiongetting
    mechanisms from occurring.
  • Systematize expectations of student behavior and provides
    consistency in rules and discipline on a school-wide basis.
  • Provide a cognitive structure for discriminating between “small”
    problems young people can resolve and “big” problems that require
    adult intervention.

The activities and concepts in Kelso’s Choice help promote social emotional learning. Here’s how:


The crux of the Kelso’s Choice system involves helping children identify how they’re feeling, and the power they have to contribute to solutions to conflict in every moment. Early activities include training on discerning the difference between a “big” problem and a “small” problem, and when it’s important to involve a trusted adult in the resolution of a “big” problem. This involves training in self-awareness and well as situational and social awareness, skills that children carry with them throughout their elementary careers and beyond.


One of the keys of social emotional learning is mastering self-management, one of the main goals of Kelso’s Choice. We can’t always control situations, but we can always decide how we respond to them, and an important component of self management is learning how to respond constructively and decisively. Kelso’s Choices give children the effective tools to manage their own reactions to situations and de-escalate conflicts so that all parties feel heard and their needs are addressed.

Responsible decision-making

Kelso’s Choice is essentially a curriculum in responsible decision-making, with tools children can use in a variety of settings. Inherent in the training is the concept of making responsible decisions, and implementing those choices in the situations they face. By giving children, educators, school staff, parents, and clinicians a shared language for resolving conflict, Kelso’s Choice promotes responsible decision-making and tools to solve problems.

Relationship skills

Healthy relationship skills, a key to social emotional learning, are a main goal of Kelso’s Choice. Inherent in the program is the tenet that all people should be treated with respect, and that everyone, including children, can master the tools to navigate relationships effectively. Kelso’s Choice understands that conflicts arise, and equips children to deal with them with aplomb, promoting positive interpersonal relationships, peaceful classrooms, thriving school environments and happy home life. It also acknowledges that there are challenges beyond children’s capacity to solve them, and gives them the language with which to approach trusted adults for help.

Social awareness

At the heart of Kelso’s Choice is an acknowledgement of the need for social awareness, as well as effective tools for raising it in children. Conflict often arises from a lack of social awareness, and how our behavior may be affecting others. By training children to become aware of their own feelings, and the feelings of others, Kelso’s Choice raises social awareness, and provides tools for an increase in positive social interactions.

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