Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Unwritten Rules of Friendship

The Unwritten Rules of Friendship: Simple Strategies to Help Your Child Make Friends, written by Natalie Madorsky Elman and Eileen Kennedy-Moore

"Unless they know the Unwritten Rules of social situations, children cannot possibly use social skills appropriately. Teaching children social skills without placing these skills in the context of unwritten rules is like teaching children to sail on dry land. They may learn the mechanics perfectly, but they don't really understand when and how to use them....What good is it if a child can list all the steps in problem-solving but doesn't know that new relationships cannot tolerate conflict? Social skills training tells children how to act. The Unwritten Rules go beyond this basic training by helping children understand social roles and expectations so that they can choose behaviors that fit the situation." (p. 7)

The Unwritten Rules of Friendship is written primarily for parents of children who struggle with friendships. After a brief introduction, the authors break social skills and social relationships into categories based on types of children: The Vulnerable Child, The Intimidating Child, The Different Drummer, The Shy Child and so on. Each chapter identifies and discusses the behaviors exhibited by each type of child from both the child's and the parent's perspective, discusses what may be triggering the behaviors, and talks about positive social behaviors that seem to come more easily for each type. The book goes a step beyond offering discussion and broad suggestions, however. For each chapter, the authors have listed the "unwritten" social rules that may be helpful for children of that personality/friendship type to learn, clearly and concisely in language that most young children can understand, and they offer specific activities that parents can do with their child and gives ideas for connecting with teachers to help the child develop their skills in the school.

Though the authors are careful to say that children on the autism spectrum, for example, may need more social training than parents can offer by using the activities in this book, The Unwritten Rules offers some good ideas for helping all children understand more socially appropriate behaviors and habits. Lovely lady has started a gratitude journal, for example, to list things for which she is thankful. The unwritten rules themselves are concrete, specific, and easy to understand. The activities are simple and direct. Perfect for lovely lady.

I don't necessarily agree with all of the suggestions offered, nor do I think that all suggestions will be a good fit for every child. But that's the way with parenting and teaching books, you take what you can use. And like many (most) parenting books, it really boils down to a whole lot of common sense. What the book does offer is those great rule lists, already broken down in a way that will be easy for your child to understand. The Unwritten Rules of Friendship offers good suggestions and insights, and that it's definitely worth reading if you have a child who struggles socially. It's worth at least skimming for ideas for any parent who wants a nice list of "rules" to help teach children to use more pleasant and socially appropriate behaviors-- for example, there's a section on whining and how it can affect the people around you. It offers some very nice tools for building social confidence and manners.


Carrie said...

This book sounds great for home schoolers. I say that BEING a home schooler and planning on home schooling my own kids! Having been home schooled, I recognize that the "social dilemna" really isn't one. However, I've known my share of shy and timid ones. My husband and I have talked a lot about how to make sure our children can function in society. I'm VERY curious to read this book to see what they have to say. Thanks for the review of it. It sounds like a good resource. Definitely a topic worth discussing!

Anonymous said...

Cat...this is one of the books I checked out from the library about a month ago and I have to agree. It's a good book but you have to take what works for you or your situation from it. It was fun for me to hear your take on it! It also helped ME understand how to stand back with some of her issues and let her work it out more on her own. It's hard to see those tender hearts get broken, though.

Jennifer said...

I think that the skill of friendship is something that most people overlook. It's interesting that there's a book on it. I appreciate you calling my attention to it.