Sunday, January 31, 2010

Super Sunday Series - Friendship - Week 3

Welcome back to the Super Sunday Series, where I talk about various aspects of raising your gifted child.  If you are new here, welcome!  Click on the link below my header to see some of the subjects I've already explored.  Or sit back and enjoy . . . friendship.

Today is week 3 of Friendship, which can be a difficult learning curve for your gifted child.  In week one, I referred you to some of my favorite friendship books.  I talked about how and where to find friends in week 2.

Making Friends 
 Last week we found them.  Now let's make them.

I found multitudes of reference on making friends.  So much that it's been hard to whittle it down.  I've decided to go with my original plan and focus mainly on a friend making skill I read about in Good Friends are Hard to Find.

Learning to Be a Good Sport, which has "simple" rules.  Simple in theory, at least.  They include things like being serious about a game, not clowning around, not telling other kids how to play something or do something (Frankel calls it "no refereeing"), let everyone have a good time (not just your child), praise other's efforts, don't leave the game if you're tired or bored, suggest a new game (nicely!) instead and accept the answer, and no bragging!  All of these rules come from pages 61-62 of the book.

The book really, and I mean throughout the entire book, stresses the importance of staying with your child in an unobtrusive vantage point until these Good Sport rules are mastered.  If you see your child breaking one of the good sport rules, quietly pull him or her aside and give a reminder.

The author, Fred Frankel, closes by saying that if your child has trouble following the rules, make a pact with him or her.  Plan a reward for complying with the rules - like a trip for ice cream.  Page 66.

I love this theory, I think it's fabulous.  But I'll just put it out there.  I think learning to be a good sport can be very difficult for gifted children.  They think analytically and typically have an advanced sense of justice.  So when they see a perceived wrong being committed, I've found it's very hard for them to stay quiet about it.  And here at our house, it's so hard for Oldest not to cry about things that upset her (see below).

A Parent's Guide to Gifted Children speaks to the "high value" on social skills that society places on us.  It states,

"Parents want their children to be happy and feel accepted.  They worry that their children may feel like outcasts or suffer ill effects from not fitting in well."  Page 177.

The Guide goes on to say,

"[p]erhaps the best solution is that all children need to at least learn 'business friendly' skills - that is, behaviors that will allow them to do business with other people in a friendly manner, but this does not require them to be best friends or adopt the other person's beliefs, values or behaviors."  Page 178.

It seems that what The Guide means by "business skills" IS learning to be a "good sport."  Because The Guide is exactly right - you have to learn to put aside your own opinions to the extent that you need to be able to get along with people.  But you certainly don't need to actually adopt other's belief systems in order to "play nice."

Sheesh, wouldn't be nice if some adults in our own lives read about how to be a good sport?

You know why I have a hard time teaching Oldest about being a Good Sport?  Because I have a toddler too!  It's pretty hard to monitor good sportsmanship when you have an active toddler to keep your eye on as well.  But I do think it's worth it - this skill is an essential life skill.  Friday we were late to school because Oldest started sobbing (yes, I'm getting used to the multiple breakdowns, but she's still blowing me away with the causes) asking if she could stay home from school.  I already had one sick child staying home, so THAT was certainly not going to happen, so I asked her what was up.

Apparently, a girl (whose friendship she really covets) told her "I know why no one wants to be friends with you, but I can't tell you."  Then she went on to say, "You cry about everything that happens to you and kids don't want to be friends with you for it."

So sad.  But true, unfortunately.  I put her on  my lap to let her cry it out, while sick little Youngest patted her on the back, saying "It's ok, Oldest, what can I do to make you to feel better?"  One of those family moments you want to remember forever, right?

After the tears, we talked about whether or not she could get through a whole day without crying.  She said she didn't think so.  And I believe her!  I asked her if she wanted a trick to help her not cry about anything except an injury.  She did.  I told her, "Fake it until you make it."  I explained what I meant (which I think is a shortened version of the good sport rules above):  that in order to get along with your friends and have them want to be with you, sometimes you have to pretend things don't bother you when they do.  Sometimes you have to laugh along with a joke you don't necessarily understand.  If people ask you how your day is, they don't REALLY want to hear all 15 things that happened before we left the house, they really want to hear, "good, thanks for asking."

She was like, "isn't that lying?"  And I told her it kind of was, but it's called tact.  And that she didn't have to lie, but that she could pick something good to say even if bad things had happened.  So if she can't blow up a balloon and the whole class can (which is what started the mess the day before), then she just has to fake it until she makes it - act like it's no big deal.

I think this is a fine line to walk, frankly.  I stressed (probably too much) that this concept did not apply to Mommies and Daddies (or sisters) and that we always want to AND need to hear everything that happens to her, no matter how bad.  And added that she might get in trouble if she didn't share stuff with us.

I hope it was right.  I don't want to teach her to be fake, but she definitely needs some ability to put her heart somewhere besides on her sleeve.  It's been getting trampled of late.

And maybe hearing this from a peer will ultimately help her fix it.

Tell me about your children and their friendship development - has it been easy?  Difficult?  Do you have any tricks?  Share with us . . .

Next week on the Super Sunday Series, let's talk about making a few close friends.  We all need a couple if possible, right?  The Parent's Guide hints that gifted kids might not, but I think I disagree.

See you tomorrow - Happiness Monday - the February plan.  I'll just say UGH right now.  
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