As parents, it’s hard to see our kids experience friendship problems. This article shares steps to help your child develop healthy relational skills and navigate struggles. It is also helpful for kids and parents to understand the difference between mean and bullying behavior. The steps below work best to navigate mean or difficult behaviors in friendship.
Lessons from Yoda
In Star Wars – The Empire Strikes Back, Luke Skywalker needed help to become a Jedi Knight. He needed someone to provide guidance and knowledge so he could learn to use The Force wisely and effectively.
That’s where Yoda came in. By allowing Luke to work through challenges, Luke gained important skills, confidence and eventually independence. Yoda’s wisdom and grounded support brought out the Knight within Luke.
I love this storyline because it’s an inspiring model on how to guide kids through friendship problems – the Yoda way.
Controlling the Instinct to Fix Friendship Problems
As parents, it’s extremely hard to see our kids struggle. We want to alleviate their pain and solve problems, so we jump right in and offer quick solutions. But often, our efforts only make US feel better. And we miss the opportunity to help our kids navigate their emotions, feel heard and develop healthy relational skills.
Steps to Guide Kids Through Friendship Struggles – the Yoda Way
- Listen hard and empathize.
When we help our kids identify and talk about their feelings, we’re helping them develop emotional intelligence. Ask what emotions they’re feeling. Where do they feel the emotion inside their body? (jaw clenched, stomach ache, etc) When we name our emotions, we can begin to tame them.
Ask questions to get a clear understanding of what happened. Get a deeper understanding of his/her world. Social dynamics are more complex than they first appear. Remember, you are hearing just one perspective of the story.
After you’ve listened deeply and helped your child identify emotions, empathize. As humans, it’s incredibly healing to feel heard and understood. When I do this step right, my kids feel loved, supported and our bond grows stronger.
- Keep your emotions and reactions in-check so you can best help your child.
As caregivers, we feel our kid’s pain. My heart actually aches when my kids are in emotional or physical pain. If I have a big reaction and jump on my own emotional roller coaster, I’ve robbed my daughter of the opportunity to process her situation. I’ve missed the chance to make her feel heard and understood. So, I try to control my instinct to fix or react. Instead, I listen and try to stay grounded.
- Have child lead problem solving.
Once you and your child have a good understanding of the situation and she/he is feeling more settled, ask if he/she has any ideas on possible solutions. You can share your ideas too, but make sure that your child takes the lead and makes the final choice on their path.
Often, there is no action that needs to be taken. Your child might feel better after processing their emotion.
- Be their cheerleader and coach.
Chances are, your child is going to be nervous about implementing their solution. This is your chance to be their cheerleader and offer encouragement. (“You can do this!”) Check-in with them later to see how things went and continue your support as needed. Through this process, your child is developing the confidence to solve his/her own problems.
Tapping Into Our Inner Yoda
On my good days, I remember to tap into my inner Yoda. When I do, I find that these moments help my kids better understand themselves and strengthen our relationship. Sometimes I fall back into my knee-jerk-fix-it-mom-mode, but luckily that’s happening less and less these days. If you try these steps, I would love to hear how it goes!
Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child, by John Gottman
Little Girls Can Be Mean – Four Steps to Bully Proof Girls in the Early Grades, M. Anthony and R. Lindert