That’s one of the reasons I wrote Monday’s blog about children’s social identity. We can help them identify goals for their social selves. But we can do more.
If you’ve heard me speak about the 8 great smarts or read my book, you know that the way kids are smart affects how they relate to peers. When we help them understand how they are smart and how others are smart, they can understand how to talk with their peers and what they might enjoy doing with their peers.
Developing Friendship with the 8 Great Smarts
Do you know children or teens who struggle with friends? Who doesn’t? Maybe they think they don’t have enough friends. Maybe they’re trying to have too many. Maybe their friendships don’t tend to last long. Or, maybe they stay at the superficial level. Developing relationships into friendships has never been easy. It’s more complicated today because of social media, family and cultural issues, and busyness.
What if I suggested that when children discover how they are smart, they can more successfully navigate the complexity of friendship? That’s not all. Parents can think about their smarts and how their children are smart when wanting to have fun together and deeper conversations. Both are more likely. It’s true. (I’ll write the rest of this about peer friendships, but everything here can be applied to your desire to stay connected well to your children.)
When children know their smart strengths and want to get to know peers better or just have a good time, they can choose activities that are a good fit. They’ll be most comfortable so they’ll be able to be themselves. Knowing about the smarts also allows children to predict which smarts are strengths in peers they’d like to get to know better. Now, they can choose activities and places with them in mind and they’ll be most comfortable. Make sense?
If I’m already a bit stressed at the prospect of trying to make a good impression and I’m in a situation I’m not comfortable with, our time may not go well. I may be nervous. I may not be able to have confident conversations. I may not think of questions to ask so our conversations don’t last long. I may be bored and the person may think I’m bored with him or her. Not good!
For example, I’m not very picture smart. So, I don’t go out of my way to go to art museums. I have gone with others to honor them. A wise choice! But, it’s not easy for me. I’m out of place. I don’t know why they’re excited with this painting or that sculpture. I don’t always know the words they’re using to describe what they say. (And, I’m word smart! But, the smarts don’t always work together. Because picture smart is one of my weaker intelligences, I don’t have a strong vocabulary for the arts.) Because I’m normally a strong conversationalist, stress can build. I’m also very logic smart so I typically enjoy thinking with questions. I can’t do that in an art museum because I don’t even know enough to know what to ask. Perhaps you can relate even if your smart strengths are different.
So, how can we help our children create positive encounters so relationships will grow into friendships? Teach them how they are smart and how that can influence their decisions and conversations.
When children are body smart, they think with movement and touch. They enjoy moving and will stay most engaged when they have the freedom to move. They like to keep their hands busy. They’ll also enjoy participating in physical activities and will probably enjoy watching sporting events, too.
When children are logic smart, they think with questions. These children may most easily connect with others who also enjoy investigating ideas. They may enjoy discussing books together, going to museums, and exploring and discovering new places and things.
When children are music smart, they think with rhythms and melodies. Connecting over music and musical groups will solidify relationships for music-smart children. They’ll enjoy going to concerts and listening to music together at home or in music stores.
When children are nature smart, they think with patterns. These children will enjoy spending time outside, going for a walk, spending time at a pet store, and going to the zoo. They may enjoy collecting things together as they examine different patterns. Bonding with each other’s pets will also connect them.
When children are people smart, they think with other people. These children will often have healthy relationships because they have the ability to discern people’s motives and more. They enjoy talking, brainstorming, and discovering truths together. They often prefer to be with several people rather than just one other person. They don’t necessarily need to do much together; it’s being together that matters.
When children are picture smart, they think with their eyes in pictures. These children may enjoy crafting together, talking about art and colorful things even in malls, and watching movies. Sometimes they’ll engage longer in conversations when allowed to doodle. Enjoying and examining pictures in books may result in great conversations. They’ll also enjoy talking about the things they see in their vivid imagination.
When children are self smart, they think with reflection deeply inside of themselves. These children usually don’t need as many friends as others do. But, they still need to be connected to healthy peers and family. Having their thoughts and opinions respected is important. They’ll often prefer quiet and talking about things worth thinking about. They’ll enjoy questioning others about their beliefs so others need to be confident.
When children are word smart, they think with words. Talking, talking, and talking more will often be the preference of word-smart children. They need friends to listen and engage in conversations. They may bond by reading the same book and then talking about it. Walking through bookstores together will be considered fun.
What do you think? I hope you have ideas relevant to one or more of your children. (There are many more ideas and illustrations in my new book.) And, remember my illustration of going to art museums. If you know your children are going to be somewhere or doing something that isn’t necessarily a high interest or strength, prepare them as best you can.
Talk with your children about what you’ve noticed about their smarts. When they know how they’re smart, they’ll be more confident and more creative with friends. When discovering how their friends are smart, they’ll better honor them. That will be a win-win.