Think about the last time you observed your child during a playdate. Did you notice any patterns in who tends to lead, and who’s happier to go along with what everyone else wants?
Discover how the instinct to lead or follow affects your child’s relationships
In any social setting, some children may have stronger personalities than the rest. They may prefer to give instructions and suggestions, and usually enjoy being in charge of the playdate activities.
If this sounds like your child, here’s some great news: this strength of will can make it easier for them to resist peer pressure from their friends. This can also make your child’s friends feel reassured and taken care of — which may help to strengthen your child’s friendships.
On the other hand, children who are comfortable going with what everyone else wants may be quite happy to agree to the games other children want to play, or even the food other children want to eat during a playdate.
Does this sound more like your child? If this strikes familiar notes, your child may be great at making their friends feel at ease, as they may instinctively accommodate others’ wants and needs. Maintaining harmony in a group or social setting could be important to your child — and this includes during playdates!
Which of these playdate personas sounds more like your child? Isn't it great to know that whether your child is wired to lead or follow, they have unique strengths they can bring into their friendships?
While there are strengths in both personas, the trick is to find a balance that equips your child to make friends easily during playdates (and beyond).
Encourage your child to find a balance between their friends’ needs and their own
One of the benefits of striking a balance between leading others and maintaining harmony is that it enables your child to get the best of both worlds.
Heads up: this isn’t about changing who your child is at their core. Instead, it’s more about guiding them to lean into their strengths — while learning to navigate the challenges that come with their unique personality hardwiring.
Try it out: equip children who are natural leaders to strengthen their friendships
Children who are natural leaders might benefit from learning to communicate their suggestions more sensitively in order to consider their friends’ wants and needs, too. This can make their friends more receptive to their point of view, whether it’s during a playdate or in other social activities.
Here’s one way to get started: "Why don't you tell me how you spoke to your friends. This way, we can see if there's anything we can adjust that will help them appreciate your opinion/guidance (?) instead of immediately disagreeing with you."
Try it out: encourage children who are more accommodating to express their wants and needs
With children who feel more comfortable going with what everyone else wants, it can be helpful for them to practise taking a step back to think about their own wants and needs.
Consider reassuring them that it’s okay to sometimes say: “I don’t want to play this game” or “I don’t feel like eating fried chicken, it gives me a tummy ache”.
To help your child strike a balance between their friends’ needs and their own, try affirming them by saying something like this: “It's great that you're so sensitive to your friends and you respect their opinions. Do you think they would sometimes benefit from hearing what you think and feel, too?”
Start a conversation with your child
Have you or your child ever met new friends that are wired very differently from you in terms of your instinct to lead or go with what others want?
How did you or your child navigate these differences?
Were there other strengths or abilities that you used to make friends at social events?
Did you or your child encounter any challenges in making friends with others who were wired very differently? How did you both overcome these challenges?