Children who are over-competitive are often compensating for a sense of failure. Parents can help by HIGHLIGHTING THE CHILD’S STRENGTHS and finding a way to let him shine in his own right. Publicly recognizing the child’s successes makes him less likely to use over-competitive tactics.
SHARPEN YOUR CHILD’S SOCIAL CUE RECOGNITION with at-home games. Make an exaggerated angry face and ask him, “What does my face look like? What should you do?” Run through a range of emotions.
ENCOURAGE YOUR CHILD TO “PAUSE AND SCAN” throughout the day. If she stops and asks herself, “What do I see? What do I feel?” she’ll be less inclined to act on negative impulses.
—Karen Fleiss, Psy.D. NYU Summer Program for Kids (nyu.edu/summer)
GIVE YOUR CHILD A STIMULATION TOY to use in social situations — a rubber band on the wrist, gum to chew. HAVE YOUR CHILD KEEP A JOURNAL ABOUT SOCIAL BEHAVIORS you have both agreed to work on. Sit down and discuss her thoughts with her. Help the child identify alternative behaviors.
USE TEACHABLE MOMENTS. Did you get cut off in traffic, or does the person in front of you have 42 items in the express line at the supermarket? Reflect on your feelings with your child.
—Trevor Dunlap, executive director, Camp Nuhop (nuhop.org)
WORK WITH YOUR CHILD TO IDENTIFY ANXIOUS BEHAVIORS and give him strategies for success. If John is anxious when waiting at the bus stop because he doesn’t know how to make casual conversation, add some kid-friendly conversation starters to your morning routine and let him practice on you.
CHANGE THINGS UP FOR BETTER COMMUNICATION Two ways to beef up a child’s communications skills:
> Find someone other than Mom and Dad who can make a personal connection with your child and help him grow socially — a coach, an art teacher, or a grandparent.
> Allow your child to take the lead in non-threatening social situations. On a family weekend trip, let your child order his own meal at the restaurant.
—Brian Lux, director, Camp Sequoia (camp-sequoia.com)