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How to act tough at school

Many difficult students behave the way they do because they’ve experienced—and often continue to experience—emotional turmoil associated with a deplorable home life.

Verbal and physical abuse, poverty, neglect, drug and alcohol use in the home, and other sources of emotional pain and trauma can cause them to act out in school. The anger they feel, the loss of control, the unfairness, the confusion and frustration . . . these churning and roiling feelings they can’t outrun spill out in torrents of silliness, cruelty, defiance, and disrespect.

Sadly, when they walk into many classrooms, what they find makes matters worse. Without a solid understanding of effective classroom management, it’s only natural for teachers to fall into hurtful methods like yelling, scolding, and lecturing that only add to their internal chaos.

Throw in inconsistency, vague expectations, and a stressful room environment, and difficult students have precious little chance of improving their behavior or healing the scars they so demonstratively carry with them.

To reach them, your classroom must be a shelter in the midst of the storm. It must be a place that makes sense, that settles frayed and tattered nerves, that provides a sanctuary of grace, peace, and truth in an often ugly world.

It starts with a clean, organized room environment—which is a physical representation of the order and control so many difficult students don’t have at home. It has a calming effect that makes them feel safe and valued. Done right, their shoulders will drop when they enter your classroom, their very seat becoming a refuge.

To affect both academic and behavioral progress, building and maintaining rapport and a trusting relationship is key. Your steadfast refusal to take their misbehavior personally. Your pleasant demeanor and calm presence. Your humor, your smiles, and your decision to see only the best in them.

These simple actions tear down walls and cause them to want to please you and get to know you better, which in turn gives you powerful leverage to influence their behavior.

When they do act out you must be able to hold them accountable without causing friction or resentment. To that end, your classroom management plan must be your only source of accountability. Finger-wagging lectures, dressing downs, sarcastic remarks, and other signs of taking misbehavior personally only work against you and add to their emotional pain.

Letting your plan do its job, however, without your judging input, frees them to accept responsibility while allowing your relationship to remain strong—both of which have wonderful restorative value.

Sharp routines, smooth transitions, and clear expectations of every minute of the school day keep your classroom moving forward and your students engaged and busy fulfilling the tasks and challenges you place before them. It’s therapeutic to be lost in work, to have purpose thrumming throughout the day. And it’s comforting to always know what is expected.

Shoring up these few basics of effective classroom management isn’t difficult, for any teacher, and it will do wonders for you and your entire class. But for your most difficult students, sagging under the weight of a thousand hurts, it can be life changing.

Indeed, they may have great challenges at home. They may bring with them armloads of baggage. They may be sullen and angry and seemingly out of control. But they’re not a lost cause. They’re not just to be endured. They’re not to be battled, resented, or put under your thumb.

Rather, with the right classroom management approach, they can begin to heal. They can begin to see themselves and their future in a different light. They may still carry pain in their heart, but if you can be a constant source of stability, purpose, and harmony in their life, they will do better.

They will enrich your classroom.

And they will thrive.

If you haven’t done so already, please join us. It’s free! Click here and begin receiving classroom management articles like this one in your email box every week.

How to act tough at school

Principal Jessica Nauiokas (left) with social worker Gabriella Cassandra at Haven Academy in the Bronx, N.Y.

In a classroom in the Bronx borough of New York City on a recent school day, a little boy in a green shirt got very frustrated. He was sitting on the floor with his fellow second-graders as they were going over a math problem with their teacher, when he suddenly turned away from the group and stamped his feet. It seemed like he was mad that she had called on another student. But instead of reprimanding him, the teacher asked him to chime in.

“You agree?” she asked him. “Do you want to take a look at it?”

The boy said yes and continued taking part in the lesson.

Like a lot of his classmates at Mott Haven Academy Charter school, this 7-year-old boy is in foster care. Two-thirds of the school’s 330 or so elementary students are in the child welfare system, meaning they’re in foster care or getting preventive services to keep them at home.

These are kids who have witnessed domestic violence or experienced abuse. Principal Jessica Nauiokas says her teachers know the cases and receive training in trauma to watch for any signs of behavioral or psychological problems.

“We try to respond in a way that keeps the kids engaged and keeps them in the classroom,” she explains. “Where in other schools, if a student got up and walked away from the circle, pouted or stamped their feet and kind of acted defiant, those teachers might escalate that” and send the child to the principal’s office or to detention.

A New School For Underserved Kids

There are roughly 400,000 children in foster care in the United States. Because they move around so much and lead such unstable lives, these kids are the very definition of students at risk. Studies have found they have lower test scores and graduation rates.

Haven Academy’s approach is shaped by its partnership with The New York Foundling, one of the country’s oldest agencies for children and families. CEO Bill Baccaglini said he wanted to build a new school for the type of kids served by his agency, because their academic outcomes are so bleak.

“Kids in the system, so to speak, usually by grade eight or nine are three grade levels behind their general community counterparts,” he explains.

The entire setting at Haven Academy is geared toward making kids feel safe enough to learn. The schools is housed in a bright and colorful new building, every classroom has two teachers, and classes never have more than 26 students. Art, music or dance is offered every day. There are two social workers — a behavioral specialist and an outreach worker.

Social worker Gabriella Cassandra teaches a weekly class on social and emotional skills. She says it’s about “how to focus, how to recognize how they’re feeling, what to do when they’re having what we call ‘big feelings,’ how to calm down, how to self-regulate.”

Cassandra works with the teachers and students. She said she also spends an hour or more each day at the beginning of the school year dealing with the city’s various social service agencies.

In some ways, Haven Academy is a more intensive version of what’s called a community school. Upstairs from the school, in the offices of New York Foundling, there’s a clinic for students and the neighborhood that provides physical and mental health services. The agency can host meetings there with biological and foster families so the kids don’t have to travel.

The cost per student is slightly less than the citywide average at $18,000, according to New York Foundling. Baccaglini says that the charter is able to provide more services by limiting its overhead, and that it doesn’t have unionized teachers.

Stability For The Homeless

The school is used to working with homeless students, too. This year about 20 percent of its kids are either doubled up with other families or living in a shelter. Child homelessness is rising in New York City — and around the country.

A recent study found that approximately 8 percent of city public school students are homeless, but only about 5 percent of charter students are. Experts believe it’s harder for such students to get into charter schools because the lotteries for entry and application processes are more onerous for families in crisis. But Haven Academy is already in contact with the agencies that serve these children.

One fifth-grader living in a shelter, whose family doesn’t want us using her name, says she was worried about telling other kids about her situation. But she says she loves coming to Haven Academy.

“When I come to school, I’m always ready to learn — and learn new things,” she says. “I feel free when I’m at school.”

Feeling good at school seems to have also contributed to good academics. Despite the stress these kids are going through, they’ve been scoring higher than the citywide average on their state math and reading tests.

Nauiokas, who helped launch the school, attributes that to high-quality teaching — but she also credits her partner, New York Foundling.

“I think opportunities to help develop a young person’s character and develop a young person’s coping skills and perseverance abilities, and their habits of mind — that to me is the responsibility of a school environment,” she says.

Hard High School: How It Affects Your College Chances

How to act tough at school

How to act tough at school

Attending a tough high school can certainly affect some of your performance statistics. It’s natural to wonder whether these shifts in your numbers are going to affect your chances of college admission. In this article, we cover what colleges are really concerned with when they look at your record, and we explain why you don’t need to be worried if your high school is especially hard.

What Is a “Hard” High School?

There are a few reasons a high school might be considered “hard.”

Usually, it’s because the school is competitive within the student body; there are a lot of students taking the really tough classes and doing well in them.

Grading policy is also a consideration. Hard schools are slow to give out A’s, whereas others practically chuck them at any student in sight.

Size can also impact how hard a high school appears to be. At a large and competitive school, it’s hard to get a top class rank—you’re competing against a lot of other people. At a small and competitive school, it’s hard to get a good percentile ranking because a slight difference in rank can translate to a relatively large percentile discrepancy.

A hard high school is one where students who would otherwise get top grades and top ranking have a hard time doing so, either because the grading is so tough or because their peers are so competitive.

What Colleges Look At

Many students worry that the relatively lackluster grades or ranking they achieve at a hard school may seem unimpressive to colleges. Basically, they’re afraid they won’t look smart. They think they won’t be able to get into their desired college(s) because they didn’t a perfect GPA and graduate as valedictorian.

As it turns out, colleges, especially the more selective ones, do their best to view you within the context of your high school environment. When colleges receive your transcript, they also receive a brief “school profile” which summarizes the school in terms of courses offered, the grading scale, average grades and tests scores, and the class size. Admissions officers will see that your school has tough grading policies and that an imperfect GPA doesn’t imply a lack of understanding in your courses.

Colleges are looking to see whether you sought out the most rigorous courses available to you and whether you excelled in them.

Also, remember colleges are looking for the whole package. Grades are a huge part of it, but they’re also looking at test scores, extracurriculars, letters of recommendation, and personal statements.

Colleges won’t assign (or dock) you points based on how difficult your high school is—they’ll do their best to be fair to students from all backgrounds.

How to act tough at school

There are plenty of factors to weigh when it comes to college admissions.

Ways to Boost Your Application

You’re essentially trying to stand out by means of some skill or accomplishment.

Commitment to extracurricular endeavors is a great place to start. Quality trumps quantity here; it’s better to be deeply involved in a few select activities than barely involved in a whole bunch.

Stellar application essays also score major points. Spend serious time on your personal statement, and get help revising and editing it. Make sure it has a balance of the personal and professional—this isn’t a scholarly essay for an academic journal, but it’s not a diary entry, either.

Awesome letters of recommendation make a great impression. Choose your recommendation writers carefully. It’s alright to remind them of your accomplishments—describe the points you’d definitely like them to include.

Impeccable test scores catch the eye. Standardized tests are a convenient place to shine. Invest your time and energy in preparing for the SAT and/or ACT ahead of time.

The Final Word

You don’t need to worry about a college looking down on you because of your hard high school. The most selective colleges spend extra time looking at the context of your numbers, and the less selective schools are, well, less selective.

The best you can do is perform your best at the high school you attend. Take the hardest classes you can actually manage, and don’t worry overmuch about how the resulting grades will look.

If it so happens that you don’t get into the college you’d hoped for, remember there are multiple reasons why things may not have lined up; it’s almost certainly not a matter of the hard high school you attended, but just the fallout of an extremely—and often unjustly—selective system.

What’s Next?

Are you getting started on the college application process? Pay attention to the important deadlines listed in our article on that topic.

If you’re wondering what kind of application you ought to submit, read what our experts have to say about that very issue.

Also check out this inspirational guide to how one student was successfully admitted to Harvard.

One of the single most important parts of your college application is what classes you choose to take in high school (in conjunction with how well you do in those classes). Our team of PrepScholar admissions experts have compiled their knowledge into this single guide to planning out your high school course schedule. We’ll advise you on how to balance your schedule between regular and honors/AP/IB courses, how to choose your extracurriculars, and what classes you can’t afford not to take.

Have friends who also need help with test prep? Share this article!

How to act tough at school

Vero is a firsthand expert at standardized testing and the college application process. Though neither parent had graduated high school, and test prep was out of the question, she scored in the 99th percentile on both the SAT and ACT, taking each test only once. She attended Dartmouth, graduating as salutatorian of 2013. She later worked as a professional tutor. She has a great passion for the arts, especially theater.

Student and Parent Forum

Our new student and parent forum, at ExpertHub.PrepScholar.com, allow you to interact with your peers and the PrepScholar staff. See how other students and parents are navigating high school, college, and the college admissions process. Ask questions; get answers.

Ask a Question Below

Have any questions about this article or other topics? Ask below and we’ll reply!

You can breathe a sigh of relief now! Here’s expert advice on what to do when students act up and personalities clash.

PreK–K , 1–2 , 3–5 , 6–8 , 9–12

Effective teachers discipline with encouragement and kind words much more often than rebukes or reprimands. The goal is to help students feel good about themselves and their behavior in the classroom.

Inevitably, though, misbehavior happens. When it does, keep the collected wisdom of experienced teachers in mind:

    Take a deep breath and try to remain calm. It’s natural to be overcome with frustration, resentment, and anger. But when you are, you become less rational, and your agitation becomes contagious.

When Personalities Clash . . .

Sometimes, despite our best intentions, we find ourselves actively disliking one of the students in our charge. The student may be rude, disrespectful, disruptive, obnoxious, or otherwise annoying. It’s just human nature; some personalities clash. But instead of feeling guilty about our feelings, we can take positive steps to improve them, says school psychologist and teacher Shelley Krapes. Here are some of her suggestions:

    Try to understand where the behavior is coming from. Is the student distressed by a death, divorce, new baby, learning disability, or some other overwhelming experience? Speaking to the student’s parents or guardian may shed light on underlying causes and help you develop sympathy through understanding.

This article was adapted from Learning to Teach. Not Just for Beginners: The Essential Guide for All Teachers by Linda Shalaway (© 2005, Scholastic).

How to act tough at school

The Justice Department (DOJ) declared open season on parents this week in a disturbing decision to target moms and dads across the country who dare speak out against woke school board agendas like critical race theory curriculum (CRT) and politically driven COVID-19 restrictions.

The absurd announcement to investigate parents they deem a threat follows an equally absurd letter from the National School Boards Association (NSBA) last week asking for the Biden administration’s protection against parents.

In their woke world parents exercising free speech to protect their kids is somehow equivalent to domestic terrorism.

You read that right. Parents are now terrorists in Biden’s America.

Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., slammed the Justice Department on Twitter, “AG Garland is more focused on using the DOJ to intimidate parents exercising their 1st amendment rights, then he is in stopping the spike in violent crime. Totally shameful.”

Shameful and a gross misuse of power that with all our nation’s problems, violent crime included, the DOJ wants to direct resources to investigate moms and dads. Because to them we’re the real threat to our country.

Also on Twitter, Asra Nomani, vice president of investigations and strategy at Parents Defending Education, called it a “declaration of war” on parents by Attorney General Merrick Garland.

More from Opinion

Far from al Qaeda or Antifa, what American parents have really become is a problem. A big giant colossal roadblock for the uber woke agenda of activist school boards across the country trying to brainwash our kids. And they’ve caught on that we’re not going to sit down and shut up anytime soon.

So parents are bullied and told to butt out, and if we don’t, we’ll be investigated and persecuted by the very government agencies we fund.

Thus, they invent their own narrative that parents are threats and hope this illusion of the truth catches on.

Because you know, if you can’t disagree with facts – just make stuff up.

They’re overplaying their hand. It was COVID that exposed both their indoctrination of kids and the power-hungry mentality of school boards and teachers unions.

Parents caught wind of their agenda and started speaking up. Activist school boards and teachers unions threw gasoline on the fire by doubling down on parents, who then got even more upset at the arrogance with which we were dismissed and ignored.

Listen up – We don’t co-parent with the government.

Perhaps this is their first rodeo being challenged by parents, since they operated largely unchecked and under the radar before COVID blew the lid off their woke shenanigans. However, when it comes to our children, the most precious gifts God has entrusted us with, we will not be scared into silence, especially by a bunch of power-hungry elitists with a distorted view of their role in our kids’ lives and education.

Our taxpayer dollars fund all the power and privilege that is afforded to them as they sit atop their bully pulpit. You can bet parents aren’t going to be browbeaten into submission while they cash our checks and then use their perch to lob threats at us so they can control our kids.

In Virginia’s recent gubernatorial debate Democrat Terry McAuliffe shockingly said the quiet part out loud, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”

Every once in a while, even the most well-oiled politician accidentally tells you what they really think. And this is what the school boards, teachers unions and the politicians they back really think of you the parent.

Listen up – We don’t co-parent with the government.

While every family dynamic may be different, one thing is for sure – it takes a family, not some agenda-driven bureaucrat in a government-run school to raise our kids.

Parents (you know, the “domestic terrorists”) are heading for the exits of these public schools. In Fairfax County, Virginia, home of one of the largest school districts in the country, the district lost close to 9,000 students just this year. You’d think maybe the NSBA would try a new strategy – like maybe not attacking parents.

It’s almost laughable that school boards want to be “protected” against “big bad parents” when, for the last year and half, it’s our kids who’ve needed the protection against their woke indoctrination.

This whole thing reeks of desperation and a political stunt to put a lid on moms and dads, whose only crime is exercising our First Amendment right. As we’ve often seen lately, when free speech conflicts with the approved narrative, they try to cancel you. Or in this case, flag you as a domestic terrorist.

The only threat we pose to school boards is taking back our kids and stopping their politically driven agenda and severe overreach into our children’s education through their indoctrination.

We will not be undermined, intimidated or silenced by a bunch of woke bureaucrats trying to pump our kids full of propaganda for their political purposes.

From extremist school boards to the DOJ, these government bullies are the real threat. Now that they’ve been exposed, their days of unhampered power with no accountability is a history lesson. We’re parents – we can handle bullies.

The number one question I get emailed, and I get emailed quite a lot running StageMilk, is how to get acting work. For most actors that means professional acting work in film, theatre or TV, but for some, it’s simply how to land a role in a short film, community theatre production or music video. Whether you are aiming for the stars, or just taking your first step, here are 34 ways to get acting work.

Some things on this list seem almost too obvious, like number #12: show your work, a vital step in pushing your career forward, but it’s amazing how many actors don’t do these basic things. Hopefully, this list reminds or inspires you to work more collaboratively and creatively in your local industry.

How to Get More Acting Work:

How to act tough at school

#1 Write something and then cast yourself.
#2 Don’t say NO to acting work.
#3 Ask! Get in touch with people who inspire you, best friends, normal friends, and friends of friends, make the connection and work with them.
#4 Contact directors whose work you admire: send 5 emails this week. But do not ask them to hire you, simply let them know you’re a fan of their work, and do not expect anything else. Sometimes it’s just nice to let people know what you think and make a small, but significant connection. (Please don’t be weird…)
#5 See what work is out there. Be a detective.
#6 Update your casting profiles. (Seriously, if your profile isn’t up to date, it could be costing you jobs)
#7 Get an agent. (Read: how to get an acting agent)
#8 Do the work, do as much preparation as you possibly can for auditions. Don’t just do the bare minimum.
#9 Produce work – a play, a short film, a web series (and then cast yourself, obviously)
#10 Follow up on conversations – random meetups, in the street, from networking events
#11 Show an interest in other people and their work
#12 Show your work. Don’t hide in the shadows.
#13 Build your social network – Social Media for Actors (Must Read)
#14 Be on time.
#15 Be polite.
#16 Be professional at all times.
#17 Iron your clothes.
#18 See a stylist (Or ask a stylish friend for help!)
#19 Brush your teeth. Audition hygiene has lost actors countless auditions.
#20 Do a voice warm up. Auditioning for theatre? Your vocal strength could be the difference between landing a role, and not.
#21 Move every day: if you are healthy and energised it will absolutely come across in your work.
#22 Have other interests. Stop being so desperate in auditions.
#23 Research your industry: ignorance doesn’t lead to acting roles.
#24 Finance other people’s work: help other people flourish.
#25 Volunteer to work on friends projects – working as an actor for free, is still working as an actor. And work, leads to more work, so get your hands dirty.
#26 Make time for acting – is your day job taking you away from your true passions? Maybe it’s time to reconsider.
#27 Save money $$$ – so if an opportunity arises, you can take it and give yourself completely to the project.
#28 Stay in touch with people you’ve worked with previously – whether that’s on social media (small cringe), or even better, IRL.
#29 Get new headshots taken – a fresh look will definitely improve your chances of getting in the casting room.
#30 Be authentic – good things come to good people, maybe not as soon as you’d hope, but eventually, it will.
#31 Surround yourself with motivated people because guess what? They will motivate you too.
#32 Update your Showreel – your showreel is your second best asset, after a great headshot, and you need a banging one to get more auditions, especially for people who aren’t familiar with your work.
#33 Join all the Acting Facebook groups in your area.
#34 Sign up to the major online casting websites. (Check for new jobs every day)

Since children are born they get to learn everything about the world through their care givers and community. Phrases like “don’t cry be a man” or “be strong like a man” program the child’s mind with concepts that idolizes masculinity.

At an early age the child starts connecting masculinity with good traits such as strength, endurance and power. Up until this stage nothing bad happens but later on when the concept of masculinity is over emphasized many male children start to feel inferior because of believing that they are not that masculine.

In my previous article The masculine protest i explained how some females try to act like males because they were unconsciously thought that that men are much better than women.

In this article i am going to talk about men who try to exaggerate their masculinity just because there were put under severe pressure by the society.

In many of my articles i spoke about the way the media programs the mind negatively and the same happens when it promotes masculinity. A hero male in the TV looks usually like Chris hemthworth. A macho man, with ripped muscles, wide shoulders and of course extremely handsome looks.

Now when the average man gets exposed to such images his mind automatically starts making comparisons (whether he was aware of them or not) then ends up feeling that he is not a man enough.

Add to this the pressure coming from the society that keeps urging the poor male to act like a man and you won’t wonder why some males fail to meet those demands.

As a result some men try to compensate by trying to appear extremely masculine. The use of steroids to become extremely muscular, the act of cursing and swearing all the time and even the habit of telling adult jokes all the time are all tools that some men use to assert their masculinity. (see also Assesing someone’s beliefs using jokes)

I am a tough guy

Acting tough, treating others without kindness and being cold are also ways that some men use to show that they are tough and strong.

Some people get the concept of masculinity wrong and think that being mean is one way to appear masculine. Of course in human behavior you can never assume that all people who do the same behavior do it for the same reason.

But as i said in my article How to read a person like a book you just need to find more than one behavior that serve the same purpose then connect them together. Once more than one clue point to the same psychological need then you can make sure that this need exists.

If so many actions were done to assert the presence of masculinity then you can make sure that this man has problems with his masculinity.

The Solid confidence program was launched by 2knowmyself.com; the program will either help you become more confident or give you your money back.

2knowmyself is not a complicated medical website nor a boring online encyclopedia but rather a place where you will find simple, to the point and effective information that is backed by psychology and presented in a simple way that you can understand and apply. If you think that this is some kind of marketing hype then see what other visitors say about 2knowmyself.

The McKinney-Vento Act provides rights and services to children and youth experiencing homelessness, which includes those who are: sharing the housing of others due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason; staying in motels, trailer parks, or camp grounds due to the lack of an adequate alternative; staying in shelters or transitional housing; or sleeping in cars, parks, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, or similar settings. [i] This document summarizes some of the McKinney-Vento Act’s core provisions.

Download Infographics/Flyers on the Federal Education Definition of Homelessness:

How to Contact your McKinney-Vento Liaison

Under the McKinney-Vento Act, every local educational agency is required to designate a liaison for homeless children and youth. The local educational agency liaison coordinates services to ensure that homeless children and youths enroll in school and have the opportunity to succeed academically.

Click HERE to find the contact information of your local homeless education liaison.

Note: This contact information may change frequently due to staff turnover. If you have problems finding the right school district homeless liaison, please contact your state homeless education coordinator .

McKinney-Vento Act Quick Reference

The McKinney-Vento Act provides rights and services to children and youth experiencing homelessness, which includes those who are: sharing the housing of others due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason; staying in motels, trailer parks, or camp grounds due to the lack of an adequate alternative; staying in shelters or transitional housing; or sleeping in cars, parks, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, or similar settings. [i] (Resource: Editable infographic on the education definition of homelessness.) This document summarizes some of the McKinney-Vento Act’s core provisions.

At the State Agency Level

Every state educational agency (SEA) must designate an Office of State Coordinator that can sufficiently carry out duties in the Act. [ii] Key duties include:

  • Responding to inquiries from homeless parents and unaccompanied youth. [iii]
  • Providing professional development programs for liaisons and others. [iv] (Resource: Back-to-School Training Kit)
  • Conducting monitoring of local educational agencies to enforce compliance. [v]

At the Local Agency Level

Every local education agency (LEA) must designate a liaison for students experiencing homelessness who is able to carry out the duties described in the law. [vi] Key duties include:

How to act tough at school

Kids seem to have busier schedules than ever before, as we shuffle them off from one activity or sports practice to another. Some can jump right into social situations, while others struggle.

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What if your child isn’t a social butterfly or prefers to spend time alone at recess or after school? As a parent, there are some ways you can help, says pediatric behavioral health specialist Kristen Eastman, PsyD.

“If your child doesn’t appear to make friends like other kids the same age, they may just need some coaching and practice time on simple social skills,” she says.

She offers these tips to help you assess the situation and give your child a much-needed boost of confidence in approaching social situations.

Take time to observe and understand how your child socializes

Start with a “fly on the wall” approach, Dr. Eastman suggests. Attend a few activities at school (or sports after school) and pay close attention to how your child interacts with others. Do they behave differently than their “norm” at home? If so, why?

Your child may have a tough time starting conversations. They may have anxiety in large groups or a fear of public speaking, and that keeps them from engaging meaningfully with other children. Do they prefer to keep to themselves and observe instead of joining in?

Depending on what behavior you see, you can then decide where to focus your attention, what skills need building and how you can contribute. “Trust your instincts, because you know your kid best,” Dr. Eastman says.

Model positive social behavior

Children really do learn by example, so be mindful of how you interact with others.

Every time you strike up conversations with friends or neighbors, or even the check-out person at the grocery store, your child is aware. Almost every scenario becomes a learning opportunity, allowing your child to see how you join in, negotiate and problem-solve.

Role play at home

If your pre-teen or teenager finds it difficult to start conversations at lunch or during free time at school, sit down and practice at home. Discuss what topics interest them that he might talk about with other kids. Test different options until he finds something that comes naturally.

Give your child a head start

If your child wants to play baseball, but is reluctant to start, visit the field with them and throw the ball around so they can get acclimated ahead of time. Go early to the first practice so you arrive before others start showing up and the scene gets more chaotic.

If they want to take swimming lessons, let them take a couple private lessons before joining a full class, so they’ll already have built up some confidence.

Reinforce and praise

Make it exciting and rewarding to practice trying new things. Even when your child is only making slow progress, make sure to reinforce their efforts.

Acknowledge each small success, and tell your child how proud you are that they keep trying.

Get the ball rolling

For smaller children, setting up a play date with just one other child is often a good idea. If your child is older, you might open up the house by inviting the baseball team over for pizza and a movie.

“Especially in the beginning, the goal is to help your child feel comfortable socializing and make it a positive experience,” Dr. Eastman says.

Don’t avoid the problem

If social situations are difficult for your child, you might rather avoid or ignore the problem. But your child won’t learn to improve their relationships by always sitting at home with you. Dr. Eastman recommends gradually pushing a shy child slightly beyond their comfort zone into new situations, with gentle coaching and encouragement.

“Don’t throw them off the diving board, but ease them toward the deep end,” she says.

Don’t compare your child to yourself or other siblings

Be realistic about your child’s unique personality and temperament, which guides how much social interaction they seek. Just because you have dozens of friends doesn’t mean your child will, too. It doesn’t necessarily mean there is a problem. Some introverted children make a few really good friends instead of having many more casual friendships.

“It’s tough when a parent’s normal doesn’t line up with a child’s normal,” Dr. Eastman says. “As long as they’re doing things they want to do and are happy and well-adjusted, that’s good.”

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