Is Your Child a Loner? Learn to Nurture his Social Skills
Kids display an amazing mix of social skills and styles. Some kids like to have one or two close friends, while others prefer to have a big group of buddies. Most kids eventually find their niche in the social scene. However, learning social skills can be challenging for kids with extreme personality traits.
Take the loner, for example -- a child who usually prefers his favorite toy or hobby (such as video games) to the company of friends. He tunes out everyone around him, often ignoring his pals during play dates. His behavior may frustrate you, but there are steps you can take to nudge him out of his own little world.
If your child is a loner, try these tips to encourage his social side:
- Remove the object of his obsession. In social situations (at home or elsewhere), make whatever object he “loses himself in” unavailable. Prepare him (and avoid a possible meltdown later) by telling him the plan ahead of time.
- Set time limits. Set and enforce a regular schedule (and time limit) for him to enjoy his favorite pastime.
- Make a deal. For example, after he finishes what you want him to do (such as visiting with the family at the dinner table for 20 minutes), he can enjoy his pastime (like playing a video game for 20 minutes).
- Seek out situations where your child is likely to make friends with common interests. Look beyond school and your neighborhood. For example, look into non-competitive sports groups, a hobby club, volunteer organizations, or a youth group at your place of worship.
Four Tips to Encourage Social Success in any Child
No matter what social skills a child has (or lacks), there are a few basic tips parents can try to boost his social skills:
- Find teachable moments in everyday life. Relationship skills and habits learned at home set the stage for how your child relates to others. For example, if he learns to play board games with the family, waiting for his turn and being a good sport, he may be more willing to do the same with his peers. (He may even learn to enjoy it!)
- Practice what you preach. Model good social skills for your child. Are you friendly to store clerks even when you have a lot on your mind? Are you pleasant to your family when you’re sick? The example you set makes a bigger impression than you think.
- Get to know your child's friends. Pay attention to how they interact with, influence, and react to your child's behavior. Give your child feedback about what you observe.
- Praise the positive. Compliment your child when he treats others with respect and care. Give him specific feedback, such as, “It was nice when you cheered for your sister at her soccer game today.”
If you patiently practice the tips described above, you may gradually help your loner child emerge from his cocoon and become more of a social butterfly!
For more information on this topic, see:
- Coats and Car Seats: A Lethal Combination?
- Kindergarten Sight Words List
- Child Development Theories
- Signs Your Child Might Have Asperger's Syndrome
- 10 Fun Activities for Children with Autism
- Social Cognitive Theory
- Why is Play Important? Social and Emotional Development, Physical Development, Creative Development
- GED Math Practice Test 1
- The Homework Debate
- Problems With Standardized Testing