The Art of Friendship

During EdRev at the Giants Baseball Park in April, 2011, Parents Education Network (PEN) invited two specialists in social learning, Dominique Baudry, MS.,ED and Jahna Pahl, MA to present a seminar.  Their topic, The Art of Friendship, focused on tools a youngster, especially between the ages of 8 and 13, needs to embrace to be successful in building friendships.

These skills can be very challenging for kids with learning differences and ADHD especially those who are “hard-wired” for science.  Because these kids aren’t wired to notice, accurately interpret and respond to the “soft stuff” (the social stuff) that happens between people they need to learn how to “play the social game. Effective social behavior involves thinking about another person when you are with them. It also requires paying attention to how your words and behaviors are causing the other person to respond to you.  It might mean adjusting what you are doing to keep them comfortable with you while you are together.

One student defined a friend as someone who she sees every day.  There was no mention or indication of interaction. Our seminar leaders provided this definition:  A friend is someone you have shared interests with, you do things with, someone you spend time with outside of school building shared experiences. Friends care about each others’ feelings, don’t hurt each other on purpose, and work at fixing it if feelings do get hurt.  There is a give and take in the friendship.

Warning signs:

Kids who say:  nobody talked to me at school today.  Or, are the ones who read a book for recess are giving a message. They are challenged by the prospect of connecting with others.  Our social learning specialists encourage these youngsters to see that it’s important to be near other people, and to check out what that group is doing.  Most often friendships start out as an acquaintance – maybe in a workshop, or the school room. Moving to friendship takes time, repetition, and regularity.

Advice for  teachers:

 Be sure your student knows how to be an effective listener.  Encourage them to watch the other’s body language and facial expressions while listening to the tone of voice. An effective listener speaks and responds to what the speaker is communicating through their words and through their non-verbal communication.  This way the person who is speaking feels listened to. 

Skills of conversing.  The challenge for “rigid thinkers” is learning how to be a flexible thinker, someone who can bend and shift and change their ideas. This can mean letting go of being attached to your own idea.  ‘Rigid thinkers” have few options, everything is black or white. They might even use the phrase, “that’s the rule”.   Those are the kids who struggle the most and are the ones who tend to be “over reactors”.  Teach them how to assess the importance of the issue is:  is it a big one, or a small one? Who thinks it is big or small?  Remind the student that no one really cares who wins or loses but others will remember who had the temper tantrum. 

Skills of entering a group.  Kids sometimes need to be taught the rules of how to come into a group and how to leave it. Point out that when everybody in the group is quiet and a noisy person joins them, the group will likely become annoyed.  Encourage the student to take time before approaching a group.  Figure out the group energy first. Then, help them learn how to match that energy before entering the group.  

Staying connected with a group conversation if you are not really interested can be challenging for the student.  Suggest they ask a question or make a comment. There are two kinds of questions which our speakers have named:

  • World Wonder, such as “How tall was your hotel?” World Wonder questions ask for facts about the world or the things in it. 
  • Social Wonder, such as “Did you like the place you stayed on vacation?  Or, Did you have fun?  .In other words, Social Wonder questions ask about the thoughts, feelings and experience a person has.    

Boredom:  Teach the student how to handle boredom in a class by asking an interesting question. The key is learning how to fake it, to pretend interest.  Remember, everyone experiences boring moments every day.  Our kids need to learn how to tolerate them, how to make the most of them while staying connected to the other people they are with when the boredom occurs.

Finally, I found it interesting that several kids attending this seminar had no fear of asking questions as they shared their complex challenges of making friends. 

For more information contact:   

            Dominique Baudry –

            Jahna Pahl –

Thanks to Jahna Pahl who provided additional insight for this blog.