Friendship is a foundation for life and all relationships.
Nothing touches the heartstrings of a parent or teacher more than the plaintive cry of "Nobody likes me" or "I don’t have any friends." We wish there were something we could do to ensure the child will be, if not the most popular, at least included in the games on the playground.
Actually, there is something we can do to increase their acceptance by the group and become more approachable to others. We can teach them skills and behaviors that will enhance their chances of being picked as a friend.
New research shows that all likable children behave in certain ways. These skills are not in-born but can be taught by parents, teachers, and other caring adults.
There is a language of likability that some children cannot pick up by osmosis, but must learn. It's been called a "shorthand" to making friends.
Not only does fitting in and having friends feel good, it has numerous other advantages including better grades, healthier bodies, less stress, and more opportunities to learn social skills. And you can help a child make friends.
Children who feel like they have friends tend to stay in school longer, make wiser decisions, and are generally happier and so it much more important than just having a play date.
Here are 10 secrets to assisting your child to be more likable and help them make friends. Teach and model them on a daily basis and you will find your social circle enlarging.
1. Look for opportunities to assist others.
Studies show that helpfulness correlates more strongly than any other attribute to being liked. Teach them to be aware of other people’s needs and to offer assistance spontaneously before they ask for it.
2. Find something that makes them feel special.
Encourage your child to find an activity, hobby, or interest that they really enjoy. They don’t have to excel at it, just enjoy it. Do they enjoy drama, dance, or railroads? Join a group of enthusiasts.
3. Say "hello" first and smile.
People who smile are perceived as nice and approachable. Friendly and optimistic people act as a magnet to others. Have you ever gotten mad at someone who smiled or said hi to you?
4. Be pleasant to be around.
It too much work to try to figure out someone’s "moods" and if your child tends to complain a lot or blame others, they will find associates distancing themselves.
If your child is consistently negative, help them to see the positive and break the habit of pessimism.
Explore the energy techniques of EFT for some simple ways to change thought patterns. You will also find great ideas in my book The Left Out Child: The Importance of Friendship.
5. Treat others as you would like to be treated.
If you are disrespectful to others or gossip about those who are not present, people tend to wary of how you will treat them. Don’t blame other people for not living up to your expectations.
It's important that you teach your child that he or she is loveable and that if they continue to behave in positive ways, a friend will come along.
6. Ask to join in the fun.
When approaching a group that's already engaged, pick one person to look in the eye and ask if you can join them. If that person says "no" or seems hesitant, then smile and say, "Okay, maybe next time?"
You will get much better response if you ask one person than if you address the group at large. If the one person accepts, then the others will go along with it. Be sure to say, "Thanks for letting me join you. It was fun."
7. Don’t take it personally.
Help your child understand that another person may just be having a bad day and may not be mad or dislike him or her. Teach them that people are really less concerned about us than we would like to think.
8. Watch your body language.
Verbal communication is the language of information. Body language is the language of relationships.
Appear open, friendly and eager to join in and make friends. Stand up straight and look people in the eye. Respect other people’s space by not standing too close.
9. Recognize the difference between friendship and popularity.
Friendship is more important and will last a lifetime. Popularity is fleeting and dependent on the group. You really only need one good friend.
One of the most effective tools for change that I've found is to think about an incident that happened ether positive or negative and then say "Next time..."
It helps you cement what went right and reflect on what didn’t go so well, so you can make changes in behavior and attitude. It also reminds the child that we all get another chance to try again, and that somewhere there is a friend just waiting for them.
Judy H. Wright a.k.a. "Auntie Artichoke" is a parent educator, author and international speaker on family issues. For FREE articles and e-zines, sign up at Artichoke Press. You will be so glad you did.