Social skills, or the lack of them, have an enormous impact on teenagers and their relationships with their peers. Sometimes, their absence is not noticed until adolescence. Sadly, the teen is in crisis mode by then.
Social Skills or Manipulation?
I joined a group of kids in the high school hallway. A young man was talking about his escapades the previous night. Some of the others standing there apparently had been at the same event, because they tried several times to add to the story. He not only did not allow them to talk, but he had a noticeable physical force that dominated the gathering.
I knew this teen and had seen him in action at other times. On the surface, he seemed popular, because he was entertaining and drew a crowd. As I observed him throughout his high school years, I concluded that he had poor social skills, and hence, no close friends, only followers.
I’m sure his little brother thought of him as bossy. Perhaps his parents called him hard-headed or stubborn. The description I would use is overbearing, because his presence, his voice, his command of any situation, and his unwillingness to share talk, time, space, or possessions were all part of his makeup.
I don’t know when these traits first manifested themselves, but I suspect he was still in diapers when someone noticed them. I envision a toddler who demanded his way and constant attention from his parents. A little brother arrived, and as soon as he was somewhat mobile, this two-year-old began to tell him what to do. The parents attempted to stop the bossiness, but were unsuccessful. Now, at seventeen, he is on the pathway to difficult relationships in his adulthood, because he lacks the important social skill of sharing.
4 Tips to Improve Overbearing Child’s Social Skills
If you realize you have an overbearing child, you can take action whether he is two or seventeen. The following tips will help get him started on a pathway to better relationships with adults and peers:
- Require that he share the spotlight at home. If he tries to interrupt conversations, insist that he wait his turn. If he’s an only child, he can share with his parents.
- If necessary, use a timer to see that each child gets to talk about his or her day when the family comes together. Rotate who get the first turn. (With my two, I used odd and even days to determine all kinds of choices.)
- To teach the concept of give and take in conversation, there is a fun game using a medium sized ball. Sit in a conversational circle on the floor or in chairs. Choose a topic to discuss. One person holds the ball while speaking a few sentences and then, throws it to another person to indicate that it is his or her turn. As the ball circulates among the group, each person gets a turn to talk.
- Require that your child respect another’s personal space. Getting physically too close to someone is a way of dominating.
The Foundation of All Social Skills
As you teach social skills, build on the foundation of Matthew 7:12: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (NIV)
Changing Your Child’s Behavior Worth the Effort
It is not always easy to make changes in a habit such as overbearing behavior, but if you do, your child will develop deeper friendships. This is a gift from you that will last a lifetime. As an added bonus, it is a gift to your future son- or daughter-in-law. And, everyone wants brownie points with their in-laws.
Question: How have you tried to help your child learn the social skill of sharing?