Tag Archives: social skills

Back in School, Part 4: Friends

While you are worrying about your child’s academic year, he is probably more concerned about friends.  Honestly, he has a point.  While academic skills are an important part to future success and happiness, so are the social skills that help us make and keep friends.

Children at a very young age are usually too self-centered to have friends.  This isn’t their fault; it is just a normal developmental stage.  If you watch a couple of toddlers on a play date, they will usually engage in what is called “parallel play,” meaning they play side-by-side, but not really together.  Even so, you can start to teach them to share, not to grab toys away, etc.

By school age, most children want friends, whether it is just one or many.  Good social skills are learned from parents, teachers and peers.  Here are some behaviors you can teach your kids that will serve them in school and throughout their lives.

  • Kindness.  Use kind words and tones around the house.  Don’t allow your children to be unkind to their siblings, to pets or to adults.  Everyone responds positively to kindness, and no one likes a bully.
  • Politeness.  (See our post on manners.)
  • Assertiveness.  You don’t want your child to be aggressive toward others, but you want her to be able to assert her opinions and express her feelings without being overbearing.  This takes practice, and it can be something you encourage through conversation, questions, and even role playing.  For example, “What will you say if your friend wants to play kickball and you’d rather swing?”  They can learn from you the give-and-take of good relationships.
  • Meeting and greeting.  Teach your youngster to introduce himself and to ask questions about another person.  They can learn to shake hands, make eye contact, smile.
  • Listening.  Hearing what another person has to say is as important as expressing your opinion.

Here’s a really nice FREE online resource entitled 101 Ways to Teach Social Skills to Children.  While the games and activities are designed for groups, many of them can be adapted for use within the family—a fun way to learn appropriate ways of behaving in different settings.

Every school in Scott County has a counselor who can observe behavioral issues both in and out of the classroom, and who can meet with your child and/or other students if needed.

A final word:  pay attention to the friendships your child/teen is forming.  Get to know his friends and their parents.  Make sure their behavior isn’t out of line with what you expect from your own kids.

The friendships we form in childhood and adolescence may or may not last a lifetime.  But they teach us skills and behaviors that are timeless.

© 2014 MBS Writing Services, all rights reserved

Screen time for computers and games

A couple of weeks ago we dealt with content of video games here.  If you missed it, check out that important information about monitoring what your kids are playing.  It’s also important to supervise all computer screen time.

Make sure all the computers to which your youngster has access are in open places in the house.  Search the browser history at regular intervals, and make sure you have his passwords for all social media accounts so you can check that activity.  Let him know ahead of time that this is one of the rules for the privilege of using the computer and smart phone.  Take a look at texts and other accounts on her phone, and remind her of safety rules:

  • Never give out personal information online or over the phone.
  • Never assume that someone you “meet” online is giving you accurate information, and never arrange to meet such a person face to face.
  • If you get concerned about someone contacting you, tell your parent without fear of judgment.
  • Never use your phone or computer for pornography (especially child pornography, which is illegal), sexting (a form of pornography), sending any inappropriate information, or for hurting or bullying someone else.  If you receive such content inform a parent or teacher immediately.

In addition to content, you should be aware of time.  Screen time of any kind (television, movies, computer, video games) means fewer hours are available for physical activity, face-to-face interaction, reading and homework.  Screen time isn’t necessarily bad in itself, but you should monitor the amount of time.

The American Academy of Pediatrics gives great advice about video games in this online article, including the recommendation to limit video game time to one hour per day.  The same goes for other types of screen time.  If your teen or child is spending much more time than that in front of a screen (unless, of course, it’s for school), engage him in conversation about what other activities might take the place of some gaming hours.  Allow her to choose from a list of fun ways to spend her time.

  • Reading.  If your children don’t like to read, read to or with them.  Pick an age-appropriate book and take turns reading pages or chapters.  Bedtime is great for this.
  • Physical activity.  One of the problems of screen time is its sedentary nature.  Inactivity leads to weight gain and all sorts of accompanying health issues.  Get your youngster involved in a team or individual sport.  Go walking or swimming.  Shoot hoops in the driveway or play catch in the backyard.
  • Board games.  Remember Candy Land?  Connect Four?  Pictionary?  Games are widely available and great fun.  They afford great opportunities for interaction, and for learning life skills like winning, losing, and cooperation.
  • Face time.  Not the phone app, the real face time.  Find something you and your teen can share and enjoy:  cooking, eating, hiking, stamp collecting, whatever works for you.  Time invested is time well-spent.  You will reap the rewards in getting to know your child better, and they will reap the rewards in knowing you.
  • Channel that interest in computers to online learning games, or learning video games.  Check out learning games on Amazon, or try one of the websites like Adapted Mind, where you can get a 30 day free trial of games for grades 1-6 (if you continue on with membership there’s a monthly fee).


Bottom line:  be in charge of what your children do, even if they aren’t always in favor of your monitoring and limits.  It’s your job, and you are aiding in their full development.


© 2014, MBS Writing Services, all rights reserved

Television–friend or foe?

Well, honestly, it can be both.

With all the appropriate attention given to the internet these days, and its inherent worries for parents, we seem to have forgotten the conversation about television.

How many TVs are in your home?  Who has access to them when?  What are your children watching?  And what are your kids watching when you’re not watching the kids?

Content on television, even content aimed at youngsters, varies from brilliant to pitiful.  Additionally, the volume of television or videos watched can make a difference in your child’s mental and social development.

Any parent these days occasionally pops in a video or turns on the television so you’ll have a few uninterrupted minutes to cook supper, take a shower, or just relax without hearing a thousand questions.  There’s nothing wrong with that, to a point, because television has its good and bad aspects.

First, the good.  Most American kids today have learned or practiced their numbers and letters with Sesame Street, and have absorbed important social skills from Mister Rogers.  Or, they have simply been entertained by cartoons, music, and Animal Planet.  There is a big world out there, and television is a good source for information and for reinforcing skills learned at home or school.

But, not all is perfect in front of the TV.  Here are some concerns you should be aware of:

  • Social.  Though social skills can be reinforced effectively on the screen, nothing takes the place of real interaction.  Turn off the television and play a board game.  Perch your child on a chair in the kitchen while you cook and encourage him to tell you about his day.  Give the video screen in your vehicle a rest and play a car tag game or have a conversation about your road trip, whether it’s a couple of miles or a couple thousand.
  • Physical.  Too much television means too little physical activity.  That can lead to weight gain (especially when high calorie snacks are involved) and other health and wellness issues.  Get your child involved in a sport, or just play catch in the backyard.


What to do, then?  Here are some thoughts.

  • Limit viewing time.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends NO television for children under the age of 2, so that they can develop through interaction with adults and other children.  They also recommend limiting television viewing for older children to 1-2 hours/day of “educational, nonviolent programs,” supervised by a responsible adult.
  • Supervise.  You should know what your child is watching at all times.
  • Keep the television out of your children’s bedrooms.  Not only will they watch things you don’t want them to watch, their sleep patterns may be interrupted and they may be tempted to “hibernate,” avoiding healthy social interaction with family and friends.
  • Talk about television programs.  Older children and adolescents, especially, can benefit from conversations about their favorite (and your favorite) shows.  This is a good way to share something that’s important to your teen, while being sure she knows your values.
  • Turn it off.  Don’t keep the television on for “background noise.”  And be sure to limit when you have on the news.  Young children don’t need to see scenes of war, destruction, natural disasters.  Such  images lead to anxiety and sleeplessness.


Television can be a great tool for education and for fun.  We just need to make sure it doesn’t take the place of more important things!

artwork by Emily N., winner of our Pumpkin Coloring Contest!

artwork by Emily N., winner of our Pumpkin Coloring Contest!


© 2013 MBS Writing Services, all rights reserved