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Children / fatherhood / Mama Drama / Motherhood / School

Mama Drama: Friendship Frustrations

Dear Mama Drama:

I have two sons who are very outgoing, but very unique. Both struggle with making lasting friendships at school and say that others seem to avoid them. They often blast in instead of joining into groups or repeat annoying behavior when they have been asked to stop. My oldest son does gross and obnoxious things and my youngest is always showing off in attempts to get attention. When they complain about how they are treated at school they seem to have no idea how their behavior is impacting others. I’m at a loss.

~ Concerned Mama

(photo credit)

Dear Concerned:

It sounds like both of your boys are “Different Drummers” as described in The Unwritten Rules of Friendship by Natalie Madorsky Elman and Eileen Kennedy-Moore. They are children who want to join in and have friends, but usually go about it in all the wrong ways.

To start help your sons identify what behaviors they engage in that are annoying to others. You will probably need to help them with this since you expressed that they don’t really understand it themselves. Discussing situations you have observed at home or on play dates is a good way to start. Help them think of other things they could have done instead of continuing the annoying behavior. Role-play these so they can practice.

Work with your sons to help them understand they need to stop to when they are asked to stop. Doing annoying behaviors more never gets positive attention and will only cause irritation. Practice this at home, acknowledging each time your sons stop when they are asked.

Identify what friendly behaviors look like. Talk about facial expressions, body language, and friendly actions that are welcoming to others. Use a mirror to help your sons become more aware of how they approach others. Demonstrate body language that signals a person is uninterested or annoyed and have your sons identify those signals.

Listening is a very effective way to engage others. Help your sons learn to ask questions about someone else and their interests as a way to get to know them. Teach them to let others ask questions of them, rather than trying to show off their talents or get attention through gross behaviors. Again, practicing these skills will assist them in mastering them.

To provide more assistance to your sons at school, contact their school counselor or other mental health provider. Schools often run social skills groups to help students who are struggling to fit in. Classroom teachers are also vital supports for children struggling socially. They can identify problem behaviors as well as provide gentle cues when your sons fall back into bad habits.

Changing behavior takes time, so encourage your boys to be gentle with themselves when they make mistakes and to keep trying. Be sure to acknowledge their more positive choices when you see or hear about them and problem solve different choices when they struggle.

Motherhood is an amazing journey that can have its share of Mama Drama. The Mama Drama column runs on Fridays with everyday mothering questions from readers and answers providing strategies to tackle these daily challenges. Send your questions and challenges to [email protected], and your Mama Drama could be in next week’s column! Lisa is also available for private consultations. All emails and identifying information will remain confidential.

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