Parent Tip – Helping your child make friends.

Research shows that parents play an important role in teaching their children how to make friends. The most popular kids are pro-social and are able to demonstrate caring, sharing, and helpful traits. They also know how to control their selfish or aggressive impulses behaviors. Most of all, popular children are good at interpersonal skills: empathy, perspective-taking, and moral reasoning (Slaughter et al 2002; Dekovic and Gerris 1994).  Parents play an important role in helping their children develop these skills.

Research has revealed important things you can do to help your child make friends. First, offer your child empathetic support by being an Authoritative Parent.  Authoritative parents believe in developing a close and nurturing relationship with their children while also upholding and maintaining a reasonably high level of expectations and rules. Authoritative parents develop clear and fair behavioral guidelines for their children.  Studies show that authoritative parents tend to have kids who are less aggressive, more self-reliant, more self-controlled, and better-liked by peers (Brotman et al 2009; Sheehan and Watson 2008; Hastings et al 2007). Teach your child to be part of the conversation, not dominate it.  A number of studies have shown that unpopular 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. Several studies suggest that children get along better when they are engaged in cooperative activities—i.e., activities in which kids work toward a common goal (Roseth et al 2008) versus being competitive.  It is important to be aware of your child’ social life including where they hang out and who they hang out with.  Various studies suggest that children are better off when their parents monitor their social activities (Parke et al 2002).  Finally it is important to teach your child about cultural differences.

About Steven Petrus

Dr. Steven Petrus is a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in psycho-educational assessment, child, adolescent and family therapy.
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