by Michele Borba
Let's face it, friends do matter. Research says those friends play an enormous part of our children's self-esteem as well as happiness quotient. But research also says friends impact our children's resilience, school success as well as just plain ability to get along in life. If your child has problems making friends, you can work together and increase friendship making skills.
Assess Your Child's Interpersonal Skills
The first step in boosting to your child's friendship quotient is to assess what his interpersonal strengths and weaknesses are right now. The more you understand how your child gets along with others and can identify the social skills he lacks, the better you'll be to help your child become socially competent. So the next time your child is around other kids, watch a little closer. Here are a few hints:
Be honest. Take a good look at your kid's friendship making skills and how he relates to others.
Observe your kid interact with his peers without him being aware you're watching. Bring a newspaper or book to pretend reading while you really watch to see how your child interacts.
Watch him in different social settings. For instance: on the playground, in a backyard, in an athletic event, in school, with one child then with a group of kids, with younger kids and with older kids.
Also watch kids who your child would say are well-liked. Tune into their friendship-making skills. What do they do that helps them be popular? And what are they doing that your child is not doing?
Talk to other parents about what skills they think are important in helping kids make and keep friends. Also talk to others who know and care about your child. What is their take on the situation?
The Friendship Building Skills Test
Heres a list of behaviors often displayed by children needing a boost in friendship building skills. Check off the one box for each friendship issue that best describes your child's behavior. You might compare your notes with others who know your child well.
At the end of the test, give 2 points for always; 1 for sometimes and 0 for never. If your child scores, 75 to 100 he has serious friendship building issues and immediate intervention is required. A score of 50 to 75 shows definite problems to work on. A score of under 50 is still cause for concern, but don't call the fire department yet.
Remember if you checked "always” for some of the more serious and dangerous issues (such as "acts like a bully," "acts dangerously," "too aggressive," "mean and cruel") immediate steps need to be taken.
Whatever your child's score is, doing this test will help you understand the strengths and weaknesses of his friendship building skills. Remember, there’s always room for improvement. This isn't about making sure your child gets a perfect score (come on, no child will). This is about determining what you can do to boost your child's social competence both now and for the rest of her life.
A S N A=Always, S=Sometimes, N=Never
o o o Doesn't share or take turns
o o o Acts like a poor loser
o o o Rarely cooperates; works alone
o o o Shows little empathy for others' feelings
o o o Lacks the skills to play games
o o o Is too competitive
o o o Can't read social cues
o o o Acts too immaturely for the group
o o o Acts too maturely for the group
o o o Hoards toys and doesn't share
o o o Poor manners
o o o Reckless; acts dangerously; takes risks
o o o Impulsive; charges ahead without thinking
o o o Constantly compares self to friends; "You have more"
o o o Is mean and cruel.
o o o Stands too close/too far from kids
o o o Acts bossy: always wants his own way
o o o Uses a sulky, unhappy expression
o o o Too critical or judgmental
o o o Interrupts; never listens to others
So what did you learn about your child? If you recognize a weakness (and it's age appropriate) then just identify one area to work on. The good news is that friendship is made up of dozens of skills and they are teachable. Follow the four steps based on Oden and Asher's research on the best way to Boost Your Childs Friendship-Making Skills.
You can also find dozens of research-based strategies to boost friendship making in my book, The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries in Part 5: The Social Scene. Or make an appointment with your child's teacher and develop a plan custom-made for your child.
Michele Borba, Ed.D., is an educational psychologist, former teacher, and mom who is recognized for offering research-driven advice culled from a career of working with over one million parents, educators, and children. A frequent Today show contributor she also appears on Dr. Phil, The View, CNN American Morning, and The Early Show, Michele is the author of 22 books including her latest release, The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries. Visit her daily blog on or follow her on twitter.
Copyright © Michele Borba. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC.