When we play The Value Game in my parenting workshops, friendship is usually somewhere at the top of the list after happiness and love. As part of the game, I pretend to be a fairy and ask the parents to write the things they would like to bless their kids with. Most parents do not know they can, in fact, grant their kids those wishes and all they need is the special “fairy dust” of love and determination.
Every interaction with others requires social skills, so friendly kids have a better life than those who are not friendly. Usually, they are healthier and have higher self-esteem.
Although some kids are naturally friendlier than other, social skills can be learned from a very early age. As with any other skill, the younger the child, the less they need to unlearn and the more “naturally” friendly they will be, so there is no better time to start than today.
Some time ago, some of my son’s friends came over for a music jam and had lunch with us. One of the topics of conversation was “Facebook” and Gal and I asked them how long they spent on Facebook. Most of them (except one) said about 4 hours. I asked in shock, “A week?” and they said, “No, a day”…
These were all Grade 12 students. My son had no time to breathe in his packed timetable (which is why he was not on Facebook and we were debating whether he should be or not), so how on Earth did they manage to find 4 whole hours to do anything?
Next, the conversation turned to how many friends they had on Facebook and I realized they did not distinguish between having friends and having a list of names of people they did not really know who happened to visit their profile. It was amazing how the length of the time they spend in front of the computer, not really communicating with others, reading their gestures, tone of voice or touching them, is highly connected to their lack of social skills.
Kids need social skills and they cannot learn them by sitting in front of the computer. The most important thing about social skills is that you can develop them only when you are in a social setting, as in “with other human beings”. Reading about being friendly is not enough and even observing others is not enough. It is one of the things you just have to experience. You learn it from being with another person, but never on your own and the bigger the group, the more your skills develop.
If you want your kids to have friends, you must teach them the right friendship skills and provide them with many opportunities to experience and develop those skills. As a parent, there are four things you must understand:
- Telling kids what they should do or not do to have friends is not going to do the trick. Do not talk too much, just provide them with opportunities.
- Do not confuse being social and being popular. Popularity is associated with appearance, personality type and special abilities. But friendliness means being easy to play with, easy to communicate with and likable.
- Being friendly does not require having many people you call “friends”. You can be friendly even if you have 3-4 good friends that you like and they like hanging out with you.
- Making friends and keeping friends are two different skills. Some kids only need help with one of these skills. Make sure you help them with what they need.
When helping your child develop social skills, remember there are 15 skills that are important in making friends and keeping friends. You can use this list to help your children asses themselves to find out which of these skills they have already mastered and which ones they need to keep improving.
Join me next week with the first 10 skills needed to be a friendly kid.
This post is part of the series How to Raise Friendly Kids:
- How to Raise Friendly Kids (1): What are Friends for?
- How to Raise Friendly Kids (2): Me and you together
- How to Raise Friendly Kids (3): Friends are forever
- Teach Your Kids How to Network