Let's face it: friends play an enormous part of our children's self-esteem and success quotient for life. I'm often asked whether parents really can influence their children's ability to make friends. My answer is always a resounding: "Yes!" After all, parents can be a tremendous impact on kids' social lives, but they can hinder and even harm their children's friendship chances as well. Here are ten ways that parents can rain on their kids' social parade. (That's a hint: So watch out, Mom and Dad! Just a few things to think about!)
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1. You set a terrible example. Do you tell your kids to have good manners, but then verbally abuse your waiter? Do you tell your kids not to talk about people behind their back, and then pick up the phone to gossip? Don't expect your kids to be a good friend unless you are a good role model.
2. You're being a pushy stage mom. Do you insist that your shy son have a huge birthday party even though he’d rather invite his one close friend? Have you tried to make play dates for your kid from names on the social page? Don’t think you can muscle your kid into friendships that only you care about.
3. You act like a micro-managing drill sergeant. Do you orchestrate every minute of your child's time with his friends? Do you hover at every play date constantly darting back and forth with some concern? Don't hyper-parent or prevent your child from gaining his own friendship experiences.
4. You make your home as sterile as an operating room. Do your child's friends feel like they ought to wear white gloves when they come over? Do you insist they take off their shoes and never touch anything? Don't be so up tight about being orderly that your kid and his friends can't feel relaxed.
5. You act like a brontosaurus. Do you embarrass your kids in front of their friends, by not understanding their language or culture? Do you insist that your kid dress like he’s starring in Grease? Don’t refuse to change when it comes to customs that are really important to your kids and their friends.
6. You put on the robe and pick up the gavel. Are you constantly criticizing the way your child tries to make friends? Do you eavesdrop on his conversations, and tell him what he should have said? Don't be critical that you discourage your kid from taking each step towards learning new friendship skills.
7. You stick your nose in the air. Are your kids' friends never good enough for your standards? Do you disrespect, ignore, never take the time to sit down and find out who they really are? Don't dismiss your child's friends without appreciating what it is about them that your child values.
8. You try to be your kid's "best" buddy. Are you more concerned about your kids liking you rather than setting limits? Do you want your kid to be popular so badly that you make your home the most permissive spot on the block? Don’t forget you’re the parent and need to keep up the standards.
9. You throw in the towel. Do you feel that no one had to help you with friendship issues, so why should you bother? Don't assume there's anyone better than you for supporting your kids' efforts to learn friendship skills or that he can do it without you.
10. You live in a little house of horrors. Do you treat everyone in your family with respect? Do your children want to bring friends home? Are they proud of you and look up to you as their role model? Don't expect your children to make friends and bring them home if your house is an unhappy place. So how are you doing? Just remember: Using simple parenting solutions can make real differences on your children's lives — especially when you choose ones that matter most in raising good kids then commit to making them become a habit in your daily parenting.
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Michele Borba, Ed.D., is an educational psychologist, former teacher, and mom. She is recognized for offering research-driven advice culled from a career of working with over one million parents, educators, and children. A Today show contributor and recipient of the National Educator Award, Michele is the author of 23 books including Building Moral Intelligence, No More Misbehavin', and her latest release, The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries.
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