Dear Kid Whisperer,
My ten-year-old son is excited to start having friends over again now that pandemic restrictions are lifting, as am I. The problem is that he has issues with anger and impulse control. He used to get in fights with friends he had over, and he just got into a fight with his little brother. I have to make it work so that he can have friends over, because he needs to have this playtime for his own development of social skills, especially after the pandemic. How would you suggest I make this happen? -Kay, Dayton, Ohio
First off, your son doesn’t “need to have his playtime.” Your son needs air, water, food, shelter, and love. Everything else is a want, not a need.
As for his “development of social skills,” right now the only social skills your son is developing is how to beat people up. If you would like to continue with this specific type of (anti) social development, feel free to invite some of his friends over for a battle royale tomorrow night.
If you are interested in your kid learning how to be a person, and then learning some pro-social skills that will make him happy and healthy in the mid to long term, I can show you what I would do with your son, but please know that this will make him very upset in the short term.
First, you need to shift your paradigm. You do not have to make anything “work” for you kid. It’s his job to create a functional life for himself, not yours. It’s your job to train him to use positive behaviors that will make it possible for him to have a positive, happy life.
Here’s how I would take action:
Kid: Can Bobby sleep over tonight?
Kid Whisperer: Oh. Yikes. No.
Kid: Why not?
Kid Whisperer: Well, the last two times you had kids over, you punched them, and last week you kicked your brother in the face. Your actions tell me that you do not know how to be around people while in a home. Parents sending their kids over here is a lot like them sending them to Thunderdome. Before you lose all of your friends, I’m going to give you a chance to learn how to be around people.
Kid: But what about my social development?
Kid Whisperer: I don’t really know what any of those words mean.
Kid Whisperer: Starting today, until you leave the house on your 18th birthday, or you learn how to be a human who knows how to be around other humans, whichever comes first, I am going to watch how you treat the other members of this family. Think of us as “practice humans.” Once you show us with your actions that you know how to be kind and gentle with others, you will be allowed to invite one “test human,” one of your friends, over for a daytime play time. If you pass the test with your test human by being kind and gentle to him, you can have another test human over for a sleep over. You can continue having test humans over as long as you keep passing the kind and gentle tests. If you fail by not being kind and gentle in any way, shape, or form, you will have to go back to practicing with your practice humans.
Either train your kid to be gentle and kind, or the world will not be very gentle and kind to him.