Giving kids social scripts

3 December 2018

Giving kids social scripts

  • Positive Parenting
by Michael Grose

Recently, I heard my adult daughter rebuke a male friend who told her that she’d lost weight.

“You just can’t say that,” remarked my daughter.

Realising his mistake this young man said, “Okay. Sorry. What should I say instead?”

“Tell me I look healthy.”

“Hey, you look really healthy!”

“That’s better,” remarked my daughter, who has clearly inherited an assertiveness gene from her mother.

This young man was well intentioned but his scripting was askew. He knew that a male complimenting a female about losing weight maybe no compliment at all, however he didn’t know what else to say. My daughter gave him a new script, which he can use in similar situations in the future.

This scenario is relevant to parenting. At Parenting Ideas we always encourage parents to look for opportunities to give their kids social scripts so they can express themselves appropriately and effectively in different situations.

You’re never too young or too old to be hugged. Just as you’re never too young or too old to receive a social script from a well-meaning friend or parent.

Benefits of social scripting for kids

Social scripting achieves the parenting trifecta. Giving kids scripts can help them stay safe, become social and importantly, become independent.

The job of parents is to wean kids off them, and social scripting is a big part of this process. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  1. Asking a teacher for help or assistance
    Kids often coerce parents to do their bidding with teachers, coaches, siblings and other adults. It’s easy to pick up the phone and arrange to meet a teacher or go into your child’s room and ask for something on behalf of your child. Take a different approach. “Choose a time when your teacher is free, and then ask her if you can sit at the front of the classroom. You could say….”
  1. Entering a game at school
    Many kids struggle to enter into a game or activity at school, so they sit on the sidelines and miss out. Social scripting involves timing, not just the words to use. Consider coaching a child about how he or she may approach a situation. Suggest that he or she looks for someone they know, and waits for a lull in the game before asking.
  1. Telling a sibling to stop annoying them
    “Jessica, please stop flicking the ruler while I’m watching TV. I find it annoying.” This may work. If not, this child could try, “Jessica, could you flick your ruler elsewhere.” It may work. It may not. But it’s infinitely better than yelling, “Jessica, DOOOONNNN’TTTT!!!!” Give kids the scripts they need to help them negotiate their sibling relationships.
  1. Saying no to a friend without losing face
    Research shows that many teenagers struggle with peer pressure because they don’t know how to say no in a way that maintains their status. One strategy is to use an excuse rather than say give an outright no. “I don’t want to drink tonight because I’ve got football training in the morning.”
  1. Expressing their emotions
    Both genders can struggle to express their feelings, particularly if they haven’t been taught the words to use at home. Recently, I saw a mother prompt her three year old when he was clearly annoyed.
    “Are you frustrated Maxie?”
    “Yes, I fusttated!!”
    “Would you like a hug?
    “Yessss!”

You’re never too young or too old to be hugged. Just as you’re never too young or too old to receive a social script from a well-meaning friend or parent.

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Michael Grose

Michael Grose, founder of Parenting Ideas, is one of Australia’s leading parenting educators. He’s the author of 10 books for parents including Thriving! and the best-selling Why First Borns Rule the World and Last Borns Want to Change It, and his latest release Spoonfed Generation: How to raise independent children.