Throughout our evolutionary history, the ability to make friends has been a crucial survival skill.
Here are some research-based tips to help kids make friends.
Teach kids how to converse in a polite way
- Kids improve their status with peers after they’ve been trained in “active listening” (e.g., Bierman 1986). An active listener is someone who makes it clear he is paying attention–by making appropriate eye contact, orienting the body in the direction of the speaker, remaining quiet, and making relevant verbal responses.
- Don’t be a conversation hog. When engaged in conversation, only answer the question at hand. Then give your partner a chance to talk, or ask a question of your own. Don’t be an interviewer. Don’t just ask questions. Offer information about yourself.
- For kids struggling to make friends, avoid competitive games and other situations that can provoke conflict or discourage cooperation
Coach kids on how to cope with tricky social situations.
- Before making your approach, watch what the other kids are doing. What can you do to fit in?
- Try joining the game by doing something relevant. For example, if kids are playing a restaurant game, see if you can become a new customer.
- Don’t be disruptive or critical or try to change the game.
- If the other kids don’t want you to join in, don’t try to force it. Just back off and find something else to do.
When possible, help kids to work things out on their own
- Young toddlers need to be closely supervised. But as kids get older, parents need to back off. Parents who hover over their kids are robbing them of the chance to develop their own social skills
Be aware of cultural differences
- Reciprocity isn’t just a human universal. It has been observed in nonhuman primate relationships. And I’d expect most people to agree that irritable, disruptive, domineering, dishonest or selfish people aren’t desirable as friends. It’s also safe to say that kindness, helpfulness, sympathy, and loyalty are valued everywhere.
- A study of six cultures found that kids in Kenya, Mexico, and the Philippines spent significantly more time doing kindnesses for others than did kids in Japan, India or the United States
- Suppose your friend flunked a math test, whereas you got an A+. Should you tell her about your success? In a recent cross-cultural study, American school kids said that doing so would seem like boasting. But Chinese school children viewed the matter differently. To them, sharing information about success with an unsuccessful friend would send the message “I can help you do better”
Please tell us what your view is
Oliver & Kim
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