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Helping 5yo DS with social skills

(24 Posts)
sparkout Tue 27-Sep-11 11:38:41

DS is very bright and articulate but has a very strong imagination and is very bossy and moody. When he plays with someone he has to be in control or marches off, he isn't tantrumming but genuinely upset. He will chat away to adults and much younger children in a parenting type way but doesn't really have the confidence to approach other children he doesn't know, its almost like he doesn't know how to relate to them. I really want to help him to be a better friend/kinder etc but don't really know where to start or what to do. He is a good reader so I've been getting him books from the library with more friendship type themes (instead of train books etc) and he enjoys reading them, but I feel he needs something really blatant as his social perception and general social skills are quite bad (wondering if he is slightly autistic, he is the typical geekish boy, clever but socially very immature)

sparkout Tue 27-Sep-11 12:26:22


sfxmum Tue 27-Sep-11 12:31:48

sounds a lot like my daughter, she is an only child and I guess that along with her personality contributes to her behaviour

we have less of the upset going away business but she struggles approaching groups of her peers and actually talking to them at their level, the school are doing their bit in group work and we at home sometimes do role play to help with specific situations

she has friends and likes playdates but it is still sometimes a struggle, part of me thik she will come into her own in her teems when she is more likely to have a broader circle/ pool of friendships and be able to find like minded people.
sorry if that was not very helpful I struggle with that as well

LizzieMo Tue 27-Sep-11 12:36:09

I have this problem with my DD. The trouble with books is that although they try to teach the child through stories/examples , they do not help if the other child does not react in the way they do in the book. My DD got really upset once as she was trying really hard to share nicely with a child, just like it suggested in the book, and then a third child came up and snatched the toy away. Then she did not know how to react as that wasn't in the book!!!

I have now found that the best way for my DD is no way at all- eg I try to let her deal with things herself. If she comes to me asking for advice, or asks for my help in a situation I will do something, but otherwise I back off. Hard as it is- as I just want her to have nice friends to play with.

You could also try asking the school for some intervention, although my child responded badly to this as she felt they were trying to force her to be friends with children she did not want to be friends with. I am sure as he grows he will get the hang of it more. My DD is now in YR2 and has developed her own strategies for dealing with the playground and she seems a bit happier for it.

Danilou22 Tue 27-Sep-11 12:38:42

Have you tried inviting his school friends round to play? The more he plays with other children the more he will learn how to interact with them. It is also a good idea to see how you and other adults interact with him. When you have a clever child it is sometimes easy to talk to them as if they are older than they are, they then learn 'adult speak' and how to play more grown up games that his peers will not understand and he will not understand why they don't get it. Get to know the other mums in his class and arrange play dates, also talk to his teacher at school (I am a Foundation stage teacher) see what ideas they have they may be able to tell you who to invite round as a good 'match', they should be monitoring his personal social and emotional skills. Don't worry about autism just yet, give him more of a chance to develop his skills. Do talk to the teachers about your concerns though.

Hope this helps a bit x

sfxmum Tue 27-Sep-11 12:39:19

I agree with keeping intervention at the minimum, yesterday we had two girls over to play and on a couple of occasions she cried and said they were not playing fairly, I did tell her that they were old enough to talk it through
She is Y2 as well

Strontium Tue 27-Sep-11 13:06:13

I was going to post an almost identical post today! My DS is the same age and smart but socially oblivious to his peers, which sounds similar. He just doesn't understand that they aren't on his unique wavelength. His (fabulous) teachers have recently started helping with books blatantly showing how to interact, and have a friend-a-day type scheme, where someone buddies up for the day. We'll see if it works. The books model how to respond whether the other kid responds positively or negatively, which is good. I'm a little worried that the intervention with the buddy system will make things worse though, since the kids may see being friends with him as something they have to do rather than something they want to do.

Perhaps you could talk to your teacher about something similar?

Aaaaaaaaarggh! Bringing up kids is a minefield, especially those that are outside the norms.

BTW, for working mums that don't know other mums and can't arrange playdates, what alternatives do people use?

sparkout Tue 27-Sep-11 16:26:01

Thanks for all the replies, lots of things to try. Strontium do you know the names of the books, are they the sort of "lets share" etc or just well selected ordinary picture books. He was playing with some girls today and after an initial falling out they managed to get along afterwards. It often takes a falling out moment, then he seems to realise and then be a bit nicer. You are right though, it is bloody hard, I've never been very socially confident so really want to help DS with this but am at a bit of a loss myself and don't really model the confident and friendly around new people thing very well!

LeninGrad Tue 27-Sep-11 16:33:59

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Strontium Tue 27-Sep-11 17:13:35

Hi Sparkout, I'm hearing you. It must be much easier for those who are already at ease socially to teach their kids how to do it. I've just looked up Social Stories on the internet and it looks like the teachers at DS school have tailored that sort of approach to DS's lack of social skills. They've then put the story into a book form; literally, they have made a social story then glued it into a little booklet for him! I don't know if the approach is too simple yet or not. Still, kids will always let you know what they think so I can only say give it a try and if your DS doesn't like it he'll let you know.

MegBusset Tue 27-Sep-11 17:22:52

This sounds a lot like DS1 as well - he's 4.7 and just started at reception. Again he is fine with adults but struggles a bit to relate to other kids, apart from DS2 who is happy to follow all his complicated games! I'm hoping he finds a friend or two at school but will see how things go.

sparkout Tue 27-Sep-11 18:26:29

Thanks, I have added some of those onto my ever growing Amazon wish list! Those social stories look really interesting. Its made extra hard here because we have an almost 2 year old daughter who is doing the usual terrible twos things so its almost like he is being influenced by her behaviour to regress to 2 year old logic when dealing with her and other children! Today they spent most of their time together literally screaming top note at each other

sparkout Wed 28-Sep-11 07:21:58

Which social stories book would you recommend if I were to buy one?

Strontium Wed 28-Sep-11 11:17:18

I don't really know. The New Social Stories book looked good.

LeninGrad Wed 28-Sep-11 11:17:59

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

anynamesleft Thu 29-Sep-11 22:28:05


I know books are the whole solution but I've just found the 'Learning to Get Along' series by Cheri Meiners which look useful, if a bit American. The book depository is selling them for around £5 a time.

The content looks v good and there's a section at the end with guidance / activities for parents.

Hope it helps

tryingtobemarypoppins2 Thu 29-Sep-11 22:39:22

Social stories are good but often children know the 'answer,' they can name feelings and emotions but struggle to show empathy and put it into action. So it all boils down to modelling the way you would like them to respond to situations. I think exposure to small groups of children little and often, setting rules and explaining why, modelling how to take turns (forget sharing), and naming feelings and emotions as they occur helps.

anynamesleft Fri 30-Sep-11 22:39:39

... lets try that again, so books aren't the whole solution ......

julesrose Sat 01-Oct-11 02:19:55

Make stories up that have similar themes to situations he has just been in. Perhaps substitute animals for the children involved and ask him questions as you're going along - what should zebra do now? How did tiger feel when zebra did that etc etc. I think they get much more engaged when actively involved and really helps them develop empathy / theory of mind, whatever you want to call it.

sparkout Sat 01-Oct-11 21:52:03

Thanks for all the replies, we are trying to get him more involved with other children in small group settings. He goes to quite a few activities but they tend to be more individual things that he enjoys. He went to jujitsu for the first time today and loved it and was put in situations that required more interaction. Thanks for the book recommendations anynamesleft, I'd seen those on Amazon as well and have added them to the list!

applechutney Sun 02-Oct-11 16:10:31

'The unwritten rules of friendship', might be worth a look. It has lots of practical advice in it, including role-play.

sparkout Sun 02-Oct-11 16:32:36

Thansk applechutney, its actually winging its way to me as we speak!!

lingle Mon 03-Oct-11 10:40:54

I recommend Talkability

Talkablity is a good book, and if you suspect he's a bit on the spectrummy side of things, then it's tailor-made for you. I like the way they talk you through the stages of theory of mind in specific stages. OK these "stages" wouldn't pass muster with a top philosopher, but I found them to be useful benchmarks.

The best advice I ever got was from DH - always figure out how much DS2 truly understands about his own feelings and never expect him to understand others' feelings at a level beyond where he can understand his own. Keep in mind the difference between true manners where he is learning to understand how others feel, and mere etiquette where he is just learning necessary rules by rote but isn't yet capable of understanding why they are there. You have to work on both at once but don't mix them up.

good luck.

GooseyLoosey Mon 03-Oct-11 11:16:20

Ds has this problem and is now 8 and in Yr 4. He has absolutely no understanding of the motivations of his peers.

We have done several things to help:

1. We have been in a continuous dialogue with school since reception. They are aware that his lack of social skills can get him into trouble and that when this happens, they need to help him to decode the situation rather than just tell him off. So they ask him questions like "why do you think that happened" and "what else could you have done?"

2. We spend a lot of time at home discussing how other people see things and how they will interpret ds' actions.

3. Many of ds' problems stemmed from the perception that other parents had of him and I have tried very hard to directly address this and have actually talked to some of them about the problems ds has.

You say he is a bright child and what we have found with ds is that he can learn what he lacks the skills to intuit. Things have definitely improved for him.

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