This is a guest post from Sarah Faulkner. She is a homeschooling mom in Washington state. She has five kids, ages 13, 11, 9, 5, and 2. 

Socialization. Most people think this means to opportunity to play with children outside the home.  I do agree with playing with other children, but I do not think that is the definition for a homeschooler.

My husband is a salesman with a GED. He actually was hired with a company that required a college degree when he didn’t have one, but he has great people skills.  People argue a college degree is the only way to get a high paying job.  So, my husband makes more than my brother and sister-in-law who both have degrees, and a large amount of debt.  As they struggle with paying back loans, two parents working, and providing for the kids, we are debt-free and taking our kids on fun vacations.

Socialization is the ability to communicate with people.  Everyone can learn the basic rules, it’s just that they are not taught.  Parents assume schools will teach children how to communicate.  Putting a couple of 6-year-old kids together and assuming one will be mature enough to communicate is stupid.  It tells me communication is not taught because we don’t know how to teach it.

1. Response.  My children always respond so I know they hear me.  My husband is from the South, so the response is “Yes Sir/No Ma’am”.  This lets me know if they do not follow-through they can be corrected. It also makes the speaker feel like they are receiving respect and everyone loves to feel respected.  This instantly places the children in a position of being well-liked.

2. Immediate follow-through.  When a command is given to kids they do it right away. As they get older than 8 they can tell me a timeframe for when they will get it done.  People like you if they feel that you are competent, and the only way to be competent is by follow-through.

3. Scripted communication.  When there is a conflict I step in (this happens with the younger kids, not the older ones), and tell them word-for-word what to say.  For example, they do not have a choice about sharing—I do not ask a two year old if they want to share.  I inform them because this is how adults get ahead in life, knowing how to respond even when you don’t want to.

4. Negotiation. As the kids get older we teach them to figure out a solution that allows them to get their way, while making the other person feel like they won. Anytime a person feels like they didn’t lose or you both won, they like you.

42 replies
  1. Jennifa
    Jennifa says:

    Dear God,
    I want a do-over and I want Sarah Faulkner as my mother. I eagerly await your response.
    Jennifa

  2. Heather A
    Heather A says:

    I tell my children word-for-word what to say all the time. For example, when one tries to grab a toy or shouts “gimmie that!” I tell them to say “When you’re finished with that may I please have a turn?” To which the sibling is required to respond “I’m always happy to share with you. I’ll let you know when I’m finished”.

    I think it really helps them to have a mental rolodex of pre-scripted polite responses/problem solving phrases. They move from (sometims begrudgingly) saying what I tell them, to sometimes needing a one-word prompt, to just using the phrases on their own…and I think in most cases, over time, they also internalize the intention behind the phrases as well (ie: your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions)

  3. Rayne of Terror
    Rayne of Terror says:

    I give my kids word-for-word scripted apologies while requiring eye contact throughout, but I hadn’t really thought about doing it in other situations. We do sometimes brainstorm during dinner scripted responses to issues at school.

  4. Emily
    Emily says:

    This feels very controlling and creepy to me. Yuck. Where are the radical unschooling posts? I miss those.

    • galeforcewind
      galeforcewind says:

      I think your response, and the both-sides-of-the-fence responses of the other commentors, qualifies this as a radical post.

    • Karelys
      Karelys says:

      This is radical.

      In our society kids are not enpowered to express their thoughts and set boundaries themselves. They’re prevented from tantrums but what drives a tantrum isn’t addressed.

      Putting very uncomfortable feelings in context with words is an excellent way to learn how to deal when you’re forced to give up your way and negotiate with others rather than making war.

  5. jessica
    jessica says:

    **For example, they do not have a choice about sharing—I do not ask a two year old if they want to share. **

    Well, 2 year olds are not developmentally ready to share. They need to feel a sense of ownership first, and they need to give it when THEY feel ready, not you.

    I was raised in the yes ma’am no sir house, and I choose to not do that to my children. Respect is earned person to person, including the child to parent relationship.

    • Zellie
      Zellie says:

      I used to hear my dad say yes sir or no sir to others even when he was their superior or at the same level. It was a term of respect.

      • Amy A
        Amy A says:

        In the military, if we called an enlisted person (not an officer) “sir” or “ma’am” they would say (or yell if it was in boot camp), “Don’t call me ‘sir/ma’am’. I work for a living.”

        I had a waldorf homeschooling mom friend who made her kids call adults “Miss ” or “Mr. ” . It felt so awkward to be called “Miss Amy” by kids who were forced to say it–like I was somehow coerced into playing a role in their coercion.

        The same for when parents make their kids tell me “thank you.” This happens a lot at my wkend job (dang free cookies near my workspace). Just say “thank you,” parent, to do your modeling or whatever, and move along.

  6. YesMyKidsAreSocialized
    YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

    “I do not ask a two year old if they want to share. I inform them because this is how adults get ahead in life”

    I’m curious how that conversation went with the two year old. This seems ridiculous to me.

    • Tracy
      Tracy says:

      Hehe. I’m down with the Toddler’s rules of possessions:
      1. If I like it, it’s mine.
      2. If it’s in my hand, it’s mine.
      3. If I can take it from you, it’s mine.
      4. If I had it a little while ago, it’s mine.
      5. If it’s mine, it must NEVER appear to be yours in anyway.
      6. If I’m doing or building something, all the pieces are mine.
      7. If it looks just like mine, it is mine.
      8. If I saw it first, it’s mine.
      9. If you are playing with something and you put it down, it automatically becomes mine.
      10. If it’s broken, it’s yours.
      (courtesy of http://parents.berkeley.edu/jokes/toddlerrules.html)

      • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
        YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

        HaHaHa!!! That sounds about right, Tracy!

        I never force my children to share. Even without me forcing the sharing or taking turns, my older kids take turns and share and learn to resolve conflicts naturally, without my interference. With friends or non-family members it’s not even a question of giving them a script, they natural work things out themselves and enjoy collaboration with peers.

        I try to model appropriate behaviors and discuss expectations when we go somewhere that is not child friendly. Like a tour of SpaceX, or a movie viewing at the Academy. These are opportunities where they need to act mature in order for us to participate.

        I obviously don’t bring the toddler to these places because I don’t expect adult behavior from a toddler. A lot of the advice in this post is the opposite of what I have done or will ever do. But I love the big smiles on her sons faces.

    • Karelys
      Karelys says:

      I don’t give the two-year-old an option in many cases. But I’m not going to start a fight just because.

      When it comes to sharing I talk about turns. “Okay it’s Murphy’s turn but it’ll be Rylee’s turn in a bit.”

      He understands that as a non permanent loss of his toy and is more willing to oblige. Not happy to but willing.

      It’s not threatening.

      Same when he asks for something I won’t give him. Like raisins (I bought some for oatmeal cookies and he ate almost all of it by the time I noticrd). He asked for more. I said no. He freaked out.

      Later he asked for more. I said “oooh okay!!! Later!! Let’s play with the truck!!”

      It’s been working better than a blatant no.

      • Sarah Faulkner
        Sarah Faulkner says:

        I have never had a 2 year old want to share. I have them tell the other kid when they are DONE with the toy they will it give to them. Then I remind the two year old to take it over to them. :) I never do a timer thing, because I never remember to pay attention. That is how my 2 year old shares without a choice. When you are done, you must share.

  7. Rachel G
    Rachel G says:

    Can we have more scripts please? Most people tell their kids to say ‘yes PLEASE’ but it would be so helpful to know what else you teach them.

    • Karelys
      Karelys says:

      I think it would be so great to teach kids to say “I’m uncomfortable doing that. I really don’t want to.”

      Or

      “I’m interested but not ready yet. Can I have a few minutes to think?”

      There’s a lot of pressure on kids to be pleasant.

    • UnschoolingMama
      UnschoolingMama says:

      I overheard a mom coaching her four-year-old to say this to my son today, after the little girl accidentally hit my kid on the head with a toy (which was more his fault than hers, all things considered): “Are you okay? Is there anything I can do to help?”

      I really liked that one. I will remember it.

      My son watches a lot of Daniel Tiger on PBS, and that show is full of scripts which are also set to catchy tunes. He bursts into song often– “You gotta try new food because it might taste good!” or “Friends help each other. Yes, they do. It’s true!” and tends to mimic the pro-social behavior (trying new food, helping someone with something). The other day he was left out by some kids and I heard him mutter: “If a friend doesn’t want to play with you, you can find something else to do.”

      It’s awesome.

      As for sharing, I actually don’t make my kids share, and I didn’t make the preschoolers share when I had 18 of them in my classroom. The kids got to ask if they could use something when the person was done. We had a sign up sheet to keep track of who was next in line to use it, but each kid using the toy got to choose when they were finished regardless of how long it took. If there was a super popular toy, I’d make sure we had multiples of it if possible. Most of the time, this worked really well. The kids would pass things off pretty generously on their own, and there was actually less toy hoarding and fights over toys because they knew no other kid or adult was going to come tell them to give it up. We talked a lot about how happy their friends were when they passed the toy along to the next person, and the kids learned generosity by being in control and experiencing the good feeling you get by sharing something willingly.

  8. mh
    mh says:

    I grew up as a latchkey kid and we had telephone scripts.

    ________ residence, (child’s name) speaking.
    May I ask who’s calling?
    I beg your pardon?
    My mother is busy right now. May I ask her to call you back?
    Would you please spell your name for me?
    I beg your pardon? Would you please repeat that?
    Let me write down your phone number. (Repeat back)
    Thanks for calling (ma’am or sir)

    …Do you know what? This is exactly how I have trained my kids to answer the phone, too. It’s the “I beg your pardon” that people love.

    Our other script is when someone is about to blow their stack at another family member in front of company. The words are, “May I please have a private word with you?” The next sentences are conducted in a whisper and usually involve a self-time-out.

  9. mh
    mh says:

    I thought the 4 behaviors would be:

    1) respecting others’ needs for privacy, space, and quiet
    2) conversing at the dinner table
    3) returning others’ belongings in nicer condition than when you borrowed them
    4) want nothing in this store. You don’t get a toy/treat every time we go somewhere.

    • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
      YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

      I don’t really have rules but here are guidelines that I try to model:

      1) The golden rule : Treat others the way you want to be treated

      2) Ask questions for clarification before assuming

      3) If you see or hear someone hurt try to offer assistance. Ask the person if they are ok. Even my 3 year old does that after I step on a lego and yell out in pain. She’ll say “You ok momma?” then I say something like “Yes I am fine, why don’t we all try to pick up some legos so we don’t get hurt?” but I’m secretly cursing in my head over the pain because it’s somehow cathartic.

  10. Rachel G
    Rachel G says:

    Yes in my experience/understanding two year olds are not ready to share. I very much like ‘when you’re done with that may I please have a turn’ which is not sharing but turn-taking. And actually more like how adults do things (you wouldn’t share a book before you’d finished it, would you?)

  11. Teryn
    Teryn says:

    Of course parents script things with their kids. My boys are expected to ask for things politely rather than demanding them and we talk about what reconciliation between people really looks like, how to apologize and how to forgive. My oldest son and I recently scripted how to deal with a bully at basketball. Sometimes it’s hard to find the words for things when big emotions are involved and it’s helpful to have a plan. This is especially true for toddlers who are just learning how to communicate but it’s applicable for every person no matter how old they are.

  12. Emily
    Emily says:

    We all teach our children scripts. The author is wise to deliberately teach her children scripts. Let’s see a show of hands for all the parents who have heard their cherub yell Fine! with a hand on a hip or GODDAMMIT! with the stomp of a foot. Modeling good communication skills and givin children communication practice isn’t antithetical to unschooling.

  13. redrock
    redrock says:

    Actually – I don’t know anybody who expect the school to teach basic politeness and scripted responses but that might be due to a limited database. And I have to admit that, being brought up in another country, a lot of the scripted answers are painfully obvious to those on the receiving end. Several of the scripted phrases every kid seems to learn here simply come across as “fake” – they are not an individual expression of empathy (or other emotion) but a coded phrase seemingly expressing empathy (or other emotion) while remaining internally detached. I rather have no expression if there is none, then the scripted one. Not to say that being polite is important to be able to live together as humans.

    • jessica
      jessica says:

      Several of the scripted phrases every kid seems to learn here simply come across as “fake” – they are not an individual expression of empathy (or other emotion) but a coded phrase seemingly expressing empathy (or other emotion) while remaining internally detached.

      As a mom that has lived in a couple of countries with my kids and who has friends from all over the world- EXACTLY. My expat friends go as far as to ask me why this is done here in the US. They notice it too. They find it odd.

      Modeling is important, fixing your own behavior and dialogue is important, teaching children to regurgitate scripted phrases-not so much.

      • Melissa
        Melissa says:

        Examples of these annoying canned responses, please? Maybe more people are successfully using scripts, but it’s the fake sounding ones that stick out to you.

        Besides, I don’t know if you can have it both ways. Does 100% authentic politeness really exist? Kindness can be authentic, but manners are by definition artificial. And that is okay, great even! I love art.

        I am very happy for people around me to filter their first reactions. If it takes a scripted response, I don’t care. I appreciate the genuine effort to respect me and be polite.

    • Karelys
      Karelys says:

      I feel the same.

      But kids are all emotions that need to be steered. When empathy is present (which would make the need for a script a moot point) kids don’t need guidance on handling the issue without causing big problems.

      I am an adult with lots of passion about pretty much everything. When I’m upset I’m not just mildly annoyed. No, I’m a volcano about to erupt. And I used to try hard to keep it down. Now, thanks to cheesy scripts I can prevent myself from making a mess in my relationships. Enough time of this being practiced and I can event prevent myself enough times from feeling that roaring anger that would burn a forest.

      I think this post is about guiding children to find their style to grow in emotional intelligence. Which is the crux of… I don’t know…everything?

      When we’re immature we need training wheels. Then we figure out a way how to handle it. Children are all ego. The can be so cruel. Sincere empathy is of course most preferred but when that’s not the case they have to have a go to response that won’t hurt others.

      This is coming from me who as a child my cousins and other kids would invite me to play and I’d say “I don’t want to. You have nothing interesting to converse about. I have books that I want to read.”

      My dad had to constantly get on my business about this and teach me go to answers and things to do to save me from myself. I was 8. I still use scripted answers because despite the years I still feel the same about almost everyone.

    • Amy A
      Amy A says:

      Redrock: I feel the same way. It’s like nails-on-a-chalkboard and why I have avoided kid-centered places as much as possible.

      Authentic social responsibility (without personal sacrifice) happens naturally when personal responsibility is in-tact. We can’t expect people to ignore themselves yet want to serve or please others.

      And we need to be *realistic* about maturity levels of children.

      When my younger was a toddler, she loved to check out strangers’ bags and water bottles. So I just stopped going to places where people’s things were scattered around. I knew that stage wouldn’t last forever. No problem. There was nothing to figure out.

      When either of my kids didn’t (or don’t) enjoy interacting with the other kids at a certain place, we just didn’t go to those places. No problem. There was nothing to figure out.

      At the most recent meet-up we had with other moms and their kids (a year ago? longer?), my kids were having fun with the first kid and I was enjoying talking to first mom. Second mom and kid showed up (unexpectedly); my kids weren’t interested in that second kid. The second mom was hinting that my kids weren’t playing with her kid. Finally I said, ‘Hey, if you are waiting for me to make my kids play with your kid, I am not going to. Either people hit it off or they don’t. It can’t be forced.’ Keeping it real. Keeping it authentic. Standing up for what my kids want. Standing up for what I want. No problem.

      I (an adult) don’t share my things much. If I do, it’s items I don’t care if I get back or not. I don’t make my kids share their things. I never make other kids share with my kids. If they want to share, they will because it’s their choice. No problem. Nothing to figure out.

      I am big on not being a nuisance in public or in other peoples’ spaces; so I model that. I’ve never told my kids to say ‘thank you’ but usually I say ‘thank you’ and so do they. I’ve never told them to listen respectfully and patiently to old people; they just do. I’ve never told them not to dig into other people’s refrigerators; they just don’t. Why is this? Because I foster personal responsibility and support their dignity. I believe they are competent.

      Note: I wouldn’t expect a toddler to show the manners of an older kid. When my kids were toddlers, I protected them from being a nuisance, as I explained in my example above. I protected them from well-meaning conversations about ‘saying thank you’ by my saying ‘thank you’ on my kids’ behalf (not through my kids, not to teach my kids, just as myself appreciating what they did for my kids—person-to-person eye contact). Yes, our kids are always paying attention to what we parents do and our energy from which we do it.

      I believe we don’t need to contrive learning experiences for our kids. I also don’t think we need to stick around places that don’t work for our families. Doesn’t life in a family, life as a family in this world, automatically create situations to work through?

      Karelys: I love what you said as an 8-year-old (This wasn’t scripted right? Just authentically speaking for yourself? Pretty self-aware for age 8):
      “I don’t want to. You have nothing interesting to converse about. I have books that I want to read.”

      • redrock
        redrock says:

        I certainly agree that politeness and consideration and respect for others have to be taught.

      • Annie
        Annie says:

        I think it’s really rude not to try to include others in social settings. And that it wouldn’t have been contrived to teach your kids to try to include others. Nor inauthentic for then to adjust what their desires in order not to exclude someone. It’s just kindness, basic kindness.

        Now that I’m homeschooling and hanging out some families who are quite lax about directly teaching their children, I’m seeing the result: often rude children wgi don’t understand boundaries. Not bad kids, just unpleasant and unnecessarily self indulgent. Not a fan.

        • jessica
          jessica says:

          quite lax about directly teaching their children ….. ….

          ……… teaching them social behavior?

          I mean, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree?

          I wouldn’t hang out with adults that were unpleasant and self-indulgent.

        • Amy A
          Amy A says:

          Oh I should have said that kid 1 and kid 2 were buddies (as were their moms). So they played with each other. And my kids played with each other. It was a huge public location with paid admission, not in any of our homes. If it was an intimate setting, we would have simply left if all the kids weren’t enjoying each other.

          I don’t believe in forcing people to be together. There are so many layers involved in the dynamics of interactions. Not every two people can enjoy each other. Some people are really annoying to be around. If someone found my kids or me annoying in-person, or otherwise not enjoyable to be around, we would be outta there.

          Boundaries indeed. Respecting people’s space indeed. Being personally-responsible indeed.

          If all this you categorize as “rude”, I am fine with that assessment.

          Why are you hanging out with families you don’t enjoy, vice versa?

          Here’s one of my fav articles. It is about being nice and people-pleasing:
          http://www.nonviolentcommunication.com/pdf_files/people_pleasers_kbryson.pdf

        • Amy A
          Amy A says:

          Annie,

          Oh I should have said that kid 1 and kid 2 were buddies (as were their moms). So they played with each other. And my kids played with each other. It was a huge public location with paid admission, not in any of our homes. If it was an intimate setting, we would have simply left if all the kids weren’t enjoying each other.

          I don’t believe in forcing people to be together. There are so many layers involved in the dynamics of interactions. Not every two people can enjoy each other. Some people are really annoying to be around. If someone found my kids or me annoying in-person, or otherwise not enjoyable to be around, we would be outta there.

          Boundaries indeed. Respecting people’s space indeed. Being personally-responsible indeed.

          If you categorize as “rude”, I understand on some level. It is so different than the “suffer for another” mentality I myself was raised in and followed until it all but killed me. Kindness, sure that is great; but many people define kindness as ignoring ones own needs and self to try to appease another–which simply won’t work anyway. My suffering doesn’t take away your suffering (Louise Hay hit this home for me years ago).

          Why are you hanging out with families you don’t enjoy, vice versa?

          Here’s one of my fav articles. It is about being nice and people-pleasing:

          nonviolentcommunication.com/pdf_files/people_pleasers_kbryson.pdf

          • Teryn
            Teryn says:

            Amy,

            I have to admit you telling the mom you wouldn’t make your kids include hers in play made me cringe. I recently was talking to a friend about how painful it is to her that her son with ADHD has a hard time making friends. He doesn’t always read other people’s social cues correctly and can be overwhelming for other kids. The reason we teach our kids inclusion is because we know how it feels to be left out. We teach our kids to treat others the way they want to be treated. Don’t you think kids learn valuable lessons about relationships by having to work through things with people they don’t click with or understand? I’m not saying your kids should be miserable but if making an effort to be kind to others and include others in their play is a struggle for them you are not doing them any favors by allowing it and separating them from the situation.

          • Amy A
            Amy A says:

            Teryn,

            Yeah, I am all for direct communication. I appreciate being on the receiving end of it as well. I like to know who and what I’m dealing with. And without spewing out more specifics, I will just say it was what I needed to do with this particular mother before things got even more nuts.

            My kids have to deal with their dad’s relatives and other people outside of their control. I myself work with the general public at my weekend job. Life offers plenty of opportunity to figure out how to deal with unpleasant or otherwise challenging interactions. We certainly don’t need to seek them out or stick around them when it is in our control.

            I hear ya. It does suck to be rejected, for any of us. And it can be painful to see our own kids rejected by other kids. My older kid is especially pleasant and non invasive; when she was younger, the kids she liked didn’t acknowledge her. That was hard to see (she didn’t even express anything disappointment about it, she just watched them afar). I saw it as my responsibility to turn our time at those outings into pleasant ones (or to leave)–I did not expect others’ children to do that.

            I am coaching someone now whose ex is rejecting their minor children. That sure puts “rejection” into perspective .

            I have said enough about this topic here. It doesn’t bother me if people disagree with me.

            (Wha?! I double posted. Didn’t think hyperlink would make it through. Sorry.)

          • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
            YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

            I don’t force myself to hang out with people that I am not interested in. I am very picky with who I allow into my life. This shouldn’t be confused with basic manners in a group setting that all of us must go through at some point. I have never had an easy time pretending strangers are people I have known forever, that comes so easily to most extroverts. But I understand that it is necessary to facilitate group discussions with strangers in a way that they are used to. Find something in common to talk about, for me it is unschooling, radical Unschooling, comic books, marvel movies, Star Wars movie…etc

            With kids I never feel you should force them to include others, but it should be modeled and discussed and encouraged so that it will come naturally to them to be inclusive. I have a mish-mesh of kids, one introvert and two extroverts. The extroverted kids include everyone and immediately make friends like other people do in those settings that I talked about. The introvert does her own thing.

            It’s all about modeling behaviors free from coercion so that it can be truly authentic. People aren’t stupid, they know when something is canned, fake, or the kids’ parents made them play with you…it’s insulting.

      • Gretchen
        Gretchen says:

        I agree with these sentiments and when my kid was younger, avoided kid-centered places as much as possible as well…

        Agree also about authenticity and being mindful of kids’ developmental levels.

        Also, kids learn a LOT from observing other people in action. The way we treat them and the way they see us treating each other is huge.

        That said, 1, 2 and 4 are pretty on-point.

  14. Kim
    Kim says:

    “Parents assume schools will teach children how to communicate. Putting a couple of 6-year-old kids together and assuming one will be mature enough to communicate is stupid. ”

    What a great point!

    However, this list is kind of stupid. Parents have to follow these rules when they are not being modeled. Children sponge up what they see their parents doing.

    If these behaviors are modelled by parents, the kids will soak it up.

    This is why peer pressure is strong. For 8 hours a day, kids become the parents and influencers in the child’s life.

    Instead, this should be called, “4 social behaviors parents need to know” or “4 traits public school babysitters need to have”.

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