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ASK MOM: Son embarrasses mom trying too hard to make friends

May 03, 2024 01:12AM ● By Mary Follin and Erika Guerrero

Drawing by Suzanne Johnson

THE PROBLEM: I am concerned about my son (he’s five). He’s having a hard time making friends in kindergarten, and I think it’s because he’s a little too pushy with other kids. When someone shows him attention, he follows them around and keeps trying to engage them to the point of annoyance. He asked one little boy to come over to our house to play, and when the boy said “no,” my son kept asking him, like, every day. “When are you coming over? When are you coming over?” I’m a little embarrassed by my son’s overtures, but I don’t want to make my feelings an issue he has to deal with, so I don’t say anything. I keep thinking he’ll figure it out, but he hasn’t yet. 

MARY SAYS: There’s a fine balance between teaching a child social skills and quashing their exuberance. You’re wise to tread carefully. Exuberant people are among the happiest, and who wants to mess with that? 

However, as you’ve observed, your son’s exuberance may be the very thing that ends up causing him to push people away.

Please don’t tell your son he’s being annoying or pushy. Instead, talk to your son about respecting other people’s boundaries and paying attention to what they’re telling you.

For example, let’s say he wants to invite Brian over to play, and Brian has already rebuffed his advances. You might have a conversation that goes something like this:

“What did Brian say when you asked him to come over?”

“He said he didn’t want to.”

“Then what did you say?”

“I asked him again.”

“Maybe Brian feels as though you aren’t listening to him.”

“But I want him to come over!”

“What did Brian tell you he wanted?”

For many children, it’s an aha moment when they learn they aren’t the center of everybody else's universe. It will take many conversations like this for your son to get in the habit of listening rather than haranguing someone to do something they don’t want to do, but he’ll get it eventually. 

Once he becomes more tuned into how people are responding to him, you can encourage him to moderate his responses to be more reflective of what the other child likes. Ask your son what Brian likes to do. Cooking? Video games? Slip ‘n Slide? 

As your son begins to learn from experience that people love spending time with good listeners, he’ll have more friends than he’ll know what to do with. Good listeners are hard to find!

ERIKA SAYS: I find it exciting and amusing watching little children learn about themselves and others around them, understand boundaries, and even learn how to set them. When you pay attention closely, you can tell how developmentally different their maturity levels are. 

I love how excited your son is to make friends. He possesses a persistent trait at such a young age, which is not always a bad thing. Persistent people overcome many obstacles thrown their way; your son will always be up for a challenge. 

Kindergarten is so hard! Some of these kids are in a school setting for the first time. Others may have no issues transitioning because they’ve been in daycare their whole lives. 

Your little one is settling in, learning do's and don’ts, and coming into his own. 

If you feel compelled to chime in, offer a gentle nudge when you think he’s missing a social cue. Perhaps you can say something like: “Your classmate may not be ready for a play date. Let's give him some time and ask again in 2 weeks.” 

And in the same way, give your son time! He’ll eventually figure it out.

ASK MOM offers parents two perspectives on today’s child-rearing issues—one from a mom with grown children (Mary), the other from a mom raising a small child (Erika). If you’re looking for creative solutions, or your mom isn’t around to ask, drop in! 

If you have a question for Mary and Erika, we’d love to hear from you! [email protected]

Read more ASK MOM advice.


Mary Follin is the author of Teach Your Child to Read™ and ETHYR, winner of the Moonbeam Children's Book Award and the Gertrude Warner Book Award. She is mom to two grown sons and enjoys sharing her more seasoned perspective  with parents of younger children. 

Erika Guerrero is a freelance hair and makeup artist, Erika K. Beauty, and mama to one amazing boy and a darling daughter.



Suzanne Johnson, mother of five children and grandmother of eight, is an illustrator, book cover designer, and author of the Realms of Edenocht series.


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