What This Situation Is Like for Parents


We know how important social connections are. We want children to have good friends and healthy relationships.

So when they sit by themselves rather than reaching out to other kids…

…or when friends ask them to play but they are too nervous to say yes

We worry what will happen as they isolate themselves. We are sad that they might not experience the fulfillment of being close to others.

So we advise them on how to make friends and be involved. And usually just they don’t listen.


What This Situation Is Like for Children


For some kids, being confident around their peers just doesn’t come easily… just like reading, singing, or sitting still doesn’t come easily to others. 

Sometimes kids simply don’t know what to say to their peers in order to make a connection. 

But even if they do know what to say, often these children are so nervous that they simply forget that all of those phrases they’re supposed to say.

And then they feel the fears of the people around them who keep pressuring them to make friends, try harder, talk louder.

So they feel more pressure, get more nervous… and often feel even worse about themselves.



How It Usually Goes

When A Child Won’t Talk to Other Children



Xander just started school and is telling his mom about it. She asks him if he’s made any friends at school. He tells her that he hasn’t yet. She asks who he plays with at recess. He tells her he usually plays alone.


Mom: Aww, Xander… Why are you playing alone? Doesn’t that make you sad?

Xander: I don’t want to play what the other kids are playing.

Mom: Why not?

Xander: Cause they’re running around and I’m not good at sports.

Mom: Aren’t there other kids that aren’t playing sports?

Xander: I guess.

Mom: Why don’t you ask them if you can play?

Xander: I don’t want to.

Mom: Why not? Just say, “Can I play with you?”

Xander: But they might say no.

Mom: So? Then go onto the next children and ask.

Xander: It’s scary.

Mom: No it’s not, Xander. Just do it. It’s not healthy to be alone all the time! 

Xander (gets quiet and is not motivated to do anything different). 


A More Effective Way to Respond When

When a Child Won’t Talk to Other Children



Xander just started school and is telling his mom about it. She asks him if he’s made any friends at school. He tells her that he hasn’t yet. She asks who he plays with at recess. He tells her he usually plays alone.


Mom: Oh yeah? What do you play when you’re alone?

Xander: Usually I climb on the jungle gym.

Mom: Are there other kids on the jungle gym?

Xander: Yeah.

Mom: Do you ever talk to them?

Xander: No.

Mom: Sometimes it’s scary to talk to new people, isn’t it?



Xander’s mom is worried that he doesn’t talk to other kids.

She also knows that if Xander senses her fear, it will only make him shut down more. She focuses on staying calm to help Xander feel more secure. She slows her voice down and focuses on just really listening to what Xander is saying.



Xander (sadly): Yes.

Mom: What happens when you try?

Xander: I don’t know how to talk to them.

Mom: Yeah, when I get nervous sometimes I feel that way too! It’s like… the words I want just FLY out of my head. 

Xander: Yeah!

Mom: Well do you wish you could get those words back?

Xander: Yeah.

Mom: What might help you do that?

Xander: I don’t know.

Mom: What would happen if you pretended to have a lasso and reached up to pull them in?

Xander (laughs).



Although she’d like Xander to be more courageous, Xander’s mom connects with him by respecting — and even relating to — his fear. She also makes him laugh to release some of his Yuck.


Mom (stays silent and waits until Xander is ready to talk).

Xander: I think I could remember what to say if I repeated it to myself a couple of times before I said it out loud.

Mom (staying neutral). Oh yeah? OK…. Want to try that? 

Xander: How?

Mom: Well maybe you could practice with me now… and then later you could practice with one of our neighbors?

Xander: OK.



To help him face the situation, Xander’s mom helps him come up with solutions. The fact that she isn’t invested in the outcome also makes Xander feel safer and more likely to be able to problem solve. 



How to Make In-the-Moment Parenting Work


Though Xander’s mom used Calm, Connect, Correct, the “proactive deposits” discussed in the Parenting by Deposit Roadmap will make all of the difference in how this situation plays out in the moment.

If your child won’t talk to other children and you want to be more influential in the moment, remember:


Depositing into CALM

Xander’s mom will not be able to stay calm if

a.) her own biological or emotional “needs accounts” are low (if she is frustrated that Xander is not being more courageous) or

b.) he has the expectation that Xander can just go up to someone and talk when he is fearful

When she makes sure her own needs are met and sets realistic expectations PROACTIVELY, Xander’s mom is more likely to be able to stay calm.

See Step 1 of the Parenting by Deposit Roadmap for help meeting your needs and setting expectations proactively so you can stay calm.


Depositing into CONNECT

Xander’s will be able to connect if

a.) she respects that all behavior has a reason and

b.) she understands those reasons (in this case, she needs to respect Xander’s perspective rather than making the solution seem simple)

When she becomes comfortable with the reasons behind behavior PROACTIVELY, she will be able to connect more effectively.

See Step 2 of the Parenting by Deposit Roadmap to learn the reasons for children’s behavior so you can connect more effectively.


Depositing into CORRECT

Xander’s mom will be able to correct behavior by offering a tool if

a.) She has demonstrated consistently in the past that she can help Xander find solutions that work for him

b.) She has made enough deposits into Xander’s emotional needs that setting a boundary doesn’t make Xander instinctively want to resist.

When she demonstrates that she means what she says and when she makes deposits into Isla’s emotional needs PROACTIVELY, she will be able to correct Xander’s behavior more effectively.

See Step 3 of the Parenting by Deposit Roadmap  to learn more about improving your influence so you can correct behavior.