With years of covid lock downs many of us are concerned for our children’s socialization skills. Today we’re chatting with Mariko Fairly from Parenting Fairly, and learning what the best strategies are for helping our kids with their social interactions. We’ve all had a moment with our kids where someone comes up to say hi to them and they dart behind our legs – and today we’re going to unpack this and see how we can best support those slow to warm kids! 

Mariko taught us all about the importance of not labeling our kids, encouraging them the right way, and helping them practice social scenarios; she basically gave us the mom’s how-to guide for socializing your kid! I loved our conversation today and I know you will too – happy listening!

After the episode you can come into the UM Club Facbook page to talk about everything we’ve discussed, so make sure to come check us out after! Haven’t joined the UM Club yet? Make sure to check it out here for exclusive podcasts, groupchats, and much more!

Guest Expert

Today we’re here to talk with Mariko from Parenting Fairly, all about supporting your child’s socialization! Mariko Fairly is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, parent coach, and mom of two. She provides positive and proactive strategies to increase your child’s cooperation, and your calm and confidence as a parent.

Mariko supports families to tackle tantrums, transitions, hitting, throwing, potty training, bedtime/sleep challenges, sibling interactions, communication, and play skills

In This Episode We Talk About

00:21 – Who is Mariko?
02:22 – What is socialization? Why is it important?
7:18 – Supporting slow-to-warm children.
13:10 – Offering our kids options in social settings and greeting.
16:45 – Supporting our kids in socialization.
24:44 – One-on-one playdates vs. groups
31:16 – Dealing with our kids being left out at school.
37:02 – How can we teach our kids to be proactive when someone is feeling left out?
40:37 – Where to find Mariko!

Watch the Video

Listen to the Audio

Resource Links
Find Mariko on Instagram: @Parenting_Fairly
Parenting Fairly website
UM Club Facebook page

Read the Full Conversation

First off, thank you so much for being here. I’ve really enjoyed connecting with you over the last few years, I find so much value in your parenting tips and your content. And we’re really looking forward to chatting with you today. So please take a few moments to introduce yourself more, so our community can learn more about you.

Thank you. So I’m Mariko Fairly, I am a board certified behavior analyst. Basically, I study the science of behavior and behavior change, and so I work with families. I worked with families who had children with autism and related disorders for about 17 or 18 years before I started my own practice. And now I’m supporting all kinds of families just work through kind of the daily struggles of parenthood. So tantrums, hitting, throwing things, sibling interactions, potty training, difficulty with sleep and bedtime, all of that. I’m also a mom of two, I have a daughter who is seven, and my son is five. So I am right there in the trenches with you. I’ve kind of been through that initial hard phase. But I think what I’m realizing in parenthood is that the hard just changes. When they’re babies, it’s just knowing what to do, and getting those basic needs met, you know, feeding and sleeping – those are so challenging for so many of us. And then toddlerhood is its own beast. And now my kids are school aged. It’s definitely easier in a lot of ways. But it’s harder because there’s more socialization, and academics to navigate. And so the hard, I think, just changes. But what I love about what you do is you provide this really amazing network and platform for moms to get support. And that’s all we can do, is to just help each other through it.

Exactly. None of us really knows exactly what we’re doing. We’re all just trying our best. And I hope that we can access the resources we need to learn things and improve our situations in different ways, which is what I love so much about this community. So to set a baseline for our conversation, what is socialization? And why is it important for our kids?

Yeah, so socialization is really just how we interact with other people, right? And it really teaches us how to kind of have a back and forth relationship, that reciprocal relationship. We’re learning about ourselves, and how other people see us in our interactions. You know, it teaches – for young kids especially- impulse control; when they’re interacting with other people, they can’t just say what comes out of their mouth. You can’t just use your body in a way that you might want. We’re learning how to control ourselves. And we’re learning how we kind of fit into the bigger picture, how we fit into a group of people, how we fit into society. So that’s sort of the importance of learning how to behave in a socially appropriate way.

And so I think a lot of us fall, just automatically, in a very big range on kind of the social spectrum. Some people are more shy and reserved, others are naturally more social people and can just click. Let’s talk more, to start off, about the shy side, the kids that may need a little bit more support getting out of their shell and socializing.

Absolutely. So I think this is so challenging as a parent, if you are not what I would consider slow-to-warm. And I like to shift away from that kind of shy label. In general with kids, we don’t want to label them, whether it’s positive or maybe less positive. When we stick labels on people, and especially kids, that sort of becomes their inner voice, right? Like, “oh, I’m shy, I don’t have to do that.” Or “I’m shy, I’m just gonna sit here.” So I think that we can sort of reframe as parents and teachers and caretakers, from calling kids shy to just saying they’re slow-to-warm, they may just need a little bit of extra time, and that’s fine. I think that’s important for them.

And on the flip side, assuming that a kid is saying, “oh, well, they’re really outgoing. They’re the class clown.” We don’t want to pigeonhole kids that way either. So it’s fine. There are introverts and extroverts everywhere, and you can still be a very successful functioning member of society regardless of those traits. I think what’s challenging as parents is if you are very different from your child. I can see you’re very much what I consider an extrovert, you like to talk to people, at least that’s my perceptio. I don’t know if you feel that way inside.

It varies. I definitely find it helps having that kind of layer with the camera and the Internet, where it’s not necessarily me thrown in a group of people. I find I am very social in smaller situations. But when it’s bigger, I tend to be more reserved. So kind of like the introverted extrovert. I do like the social interaction, but I also need that time by myself to recharge.

Yeah, I love that. I love that. I think that’s a good balance. But yeah, going back to your question, I think that when we are very different from our kids – like I would consider myself an extrovert, I have one child who is an extrovert and one child who is an introvert. She’s very slow-to-warm, to the point where it’s almost painful, because she may not respond to people when they talk to her. And I think that I feel my own emotions about that. And I hav’e my own reaction; sometimes I’m embarrassed, sometimes I get really anxious because I’m like, I don’t know what she’s going to do in this situation.” And so I think, what I’ve been working on, is just accepting that that’s who she is. And I’m trying my best to support her and give her strategies so that she feels comfortable. 

So I think the flip side could be true as well; if you are also the same as your child, you’re at a bit of an advantage, right? Because you can relate to them, in a way that you really understand why they might be feeling that way or doing those things. And you may be, whether you realize it or not, even more equipped to support them, if you’re an introvert and they’re also an introvert.

Absolutely. And I really like how you also touched on not pigeonholing and labeling, and that it is a process, and something that can be worked on, to warm up. I have thought of it similarly when it comes to food, which is kind of a bit of an issue in our house with some things. And I try not to label my son as a picky eater. It’s just he’s learning to eat more of a variety of foods. And so it’s not sticking them in that box, but kind of providing the wording and terminology that’s a process. And things can change, and that’s okay. So how do we support our more slow-to-warm children?

Yeah, absolutely. I love that you said that it’s a process. It really, really is. And even if this is sort of inherently who these kids are, they are slow-to-warm, they can learn the ways to socialize in a way that makes them feel comfortable. Because if you think about it like if everyone was a social butterfly, that would be really hard for our society

That would be a bit chaotic, I feel like.

Exactly. So we need these types of different personalities to sort of complete our society, and sort of make the world go round in a more smooth way. And we always say, you know, opposites attract or people compliment each other. So it’s good to have these differences. I would say that, let’s take an example of going to maybe a birthday party. So a child who is slow-to-warm might show a lot of anxious behaviors, maybe they’re hanging back and hiding behind you. Maybe they’re not responding to people who are saying hi to them. And I think oftentimes, as parents, we try to do this thing where we minimize the concern and minimize their challenge, right? “Oh, it’s fine. It’s fine. You know, all these kids, go play, go off and go play.” And for a child who’s slow-to-warm, that’s actually going to make things harder for them, they will probably retreat even more if we try to push them too fast. 

So I think creating sort of a safe space for them – before you get to the party, give them the rundown. Who, what, where, when, why, how; let them know who’s going to be there, what’s going to happen. If you know that Princess Elsa is going to be there, I would tell them. Don’t sort of make that a surprise if you know that your child has a hard time with those things. If their best friend is going to be there, let them know. Give them sort of the rundown. You can eat what you like – again, if you have an eater who doesn’t maybe always like the food. Be like “I’m not sure what kind of foods gonna be there, eat what you like it,and if you’re still hungry we can get something afterwards.” So try to minimize those things that might contribute to any anxiety that they’re feeling. And then when you arrive, let them know “if you’re not ready to play, you can stay with me until you are.” And I think the balance then is, for sure people are going to talk to them. And we want our kids to be seen as respectful and polite, and at least responsive in some way. So one of the strategies that I use with my daughter is choose how you want to say hello. So you don’t have to respond verbally, right? If you just aren’t ready to talk, that’s okay. But you can wave, you can give a high five, you can smile – a little harder if you’re wearing a mask these days. But I always say smile with your eyes. But there are ways to interact non verbally, that still show that you are present and attentive and respectful.

I loved so much about what you just said. Both with preparing, that’s something that has been so helpful within our household for every situation, really, I find it really helps our kids. Maybe that it’s they’re feeling more control, they know what to expect. And so it’s a much smoother process. Even if we’re going to the grocery store, I try to give our kids a heads up, like “this is what we’re doing. This is what’s expected. You need to listen to me, stay in the car, hold my hand,” whatever it might be. And it really helps our kids understand the situation and they know their expectations. And they know where they can have more freedom, too. And with the freedom part, with the other part that you said, I love those options of how to say hello, I never thought about that before. And it’s more like “Oh, it’s okay. You can say hi again.” But no, there’s different ways you can say hi. So I really like that you mentioned those options for us.

Absolutely. Yeah. And I think, you know, one of the things that I hear so much from parents, I hear it for greetings, as well as please and thank you. So as parents, we often speak for our kids, right? I mean, this is sort of how they learn how to socialize, is we’re modeling for them constantly and they’re listening to us. But what I find is, a lot of times as parents, we might say, “what do you say?” We  cue them to say thank you, or, you know, “so and so said hi to you, you need to say hi.” And those things are not bad. But I think what’s happening in a situation where you have maybe a slow-to-warm child is they weren’t gonna say it anyway. And so that cue may or may not get them to say it. But if the goal is for them to feel comfortable and say it on their own, then teaching them another strategy that they can use instead is going to be really helpful. So giving them that nonverbal option can only help that situation and their comfort level.

Would you say – I’m assuming there’d be a lot of kind of prep work with that, just talking about it in general. And then in the moment, rather than saying like, “what do you say?” What would be a good thing for us to say instead, to offer those options? 

Such a great question, I love that. Just say it yourself. So instead of the queue being “Janine, what do you say, say hi to Mrs. Smith,” you would just say “Hi, Mrs. Smith, it’s nice to see you.” And that way, you’re modeling exactly what you want them to eventually do. There’s not a weird back and forth with you and your kid in front of other people, you know, trying to get them to do something that they may or may not do. And what I love about it, it’s the most natural way that you want them to communicate, right? You want the cue to be Mrs. Smith saying hi to you, or saying hi to your child. You don’t want the cue to be you having to say “hey, you need to say hi; hey, you need to say thank you; hey, you need to say please.” We want them to pay attention to the other person as the cue, as opposed to us always prompting them, because that’s way harder to fade out. Right? I know eight and ten year olds who still need to be cued to say thank you when receiving a gift. To me, that’s not a problem with the eight and ten year old not knowing what to do, it’s that they’ve never learned to do it independently.

That makes so much sense.

Yeah, and it’s something we don’t necessarily think about. For us, it’s like a reflex. But I think if we can be more cognizant of those situations as parents, we can really actually support our kids to be more independent. And then when they do the thing that you want them to do, when they do say hi or wave or go off with their friends, that’s when you praise and you compliment and you acknowledge, “wow, you ran off and played with, Joey, what would you guys do?” And you don’t have to be like, “I’m so proud of you, you went off to play.” You can just literally say what you saw, “you went off to play. What did you guys do, what did you play? You played Legos? Oh, wow, that looks like so much fun. You looked really happy. I loved the smile on your face.” And that bridges how they might be feeling in that situation with the actual event so that they’ll be likely to do it again in the future. “oh, the next time I go to a party and I see Joey, I know that we can go off and play together.” 

Yes. And I love how you talked about the specifics, rather than being like, “oh, you were so good talking with them,” or “you’re being so good saying hi.” But really being like, “you looked happy. And it looks like you’ve made a friend.” Really getting specific with it. And I find that helps kind of build their confidence in themselves, too. And like you’d mentioned, it’s getting out of that pigeonholing.

Yes, absolutely. Because we have to – and we talked about the process, right? In behavior analysis, in my field, we talk about that as shaping. So you have your starting point, right? Maybe you have a child who doesn’t speak to other people, and they don’t respond, and you have your end goal. You want them to at least respond to people and maybe even initiate sometimes. Well, there’s a lot of baby steps to get there. So every step along the way of this shaping process, we need to acknowledge that, because they’re working hard to achieve that step. So we want to make sure that we are reinforcing it in some way.

Absolutely. So we’ve talked a lot about kind of that greeting situation. What are more things we can do to support our child’s socialization overall, because as we know, it’s a lot more than just the greeting, and you had touched on the impulse control and that side of things as well.

So role playing can be really helpful. You can do this just during normal play time, you don’t have to set it up but you can kind of build it in. Maybe you’re playing Legos or Barbies or dolls with your kids. And maybe when you’re playing, you might snatch a toy from them, and see how they respond. And if they hit or throw – well, that’s not an appropriate response, we need to work through that. Maybe you can coach them to say, “hey, I was playing with that.” So you can kind of playfully work on these things when they don’t even know it. But role playing at home is such a great way to sort of set your kids up for success when they’re in a social setting. You can do it for school, like you can play teacher, you can play restaurant, you can have a pretend playdate with your LOL dolls. There’s so many different ways to do it. And there’s a lot of social scenarios that would fall into that – and you know your kid best, right? You know what their strengths are and what their challenges are. And taking toys is a big one that I work with families on, because it ends up in a big blow up a lot of times. So that’s something that you can practice at home. 

And if it’s really challenging, break it down. So maybe the first few times you do it, you say, “I’m going to take your toy right now.” And you tell them, and give them options of what they can say and do. “Okay, you can say ‘stop it, that’s mine.’ You can say ‘give it back,’ you can just put your handout.” Give them a few different strategies, let them know what’s going to happen. Play it out, act it out. And then over time, you don’t tell them anymore. You just do it and see if their reaction follows. And then obviously, you praise them when they react appropriately and you coach through if they don’t. If you can do some of that stuff at home, sort of that pre-teaching, I think you’ll see some good interactions when they’re actually with other kids. 

I think having one on one playdates is also really helpful. So a lot of times, especially getting together with other families, that’s a social situation for adults too. We need that adult interaction. But a lot of times what happens is the adults kind of all congregate together and we just expect the kids to go off and play together. But for some kids that is really difficult. So they may need some adult facilitation, you might need to sit down with them and facilitate a board game, or at the park sit there in the sandbox and get them started playing with the toys. You might need to sort of help them get started, especially your slow-to-warm child, modeling interactions, modeling phrases and things that you want them to say and do. And then as they start to warm up, you can kind of fade your presence a little bit.

And being proactive about it, I could see that it could really help mitigate some things that could pop up. So where we may typically be like, “oh, go play,” and then it starts to bring that resistance and power struggles and feeling on the spot. And it can kind of blow things up from there. But if we can take a step back, either ahead of time and think about what may happen, or in the moment, and be like, “wait, they need some extra support right now,” and move and work at doing that, it can help you get back to what you want to do faster, and really help support them to have a more enjoyable experience, too.

Yes, I love what you said. I think sometimes when our kids – especially when we’re with other people – when they’re acting out their frustration or their insecurities, it triggers us, right? Like, “oh, just go play with your friends,” some parents might feel embarrassed, some might just be annoyed, because they want to do whatever it is they want to do. But I love exactly what you said; if you put in five minutes at the beginning, that is going to save so much time in the long run, right? It’s going to save a big back and forth where emotions are then going to escalate and behaviors may escalate. And being proactive can just help everybody calm down, help everyone feel comfortable. And then, you know, do your own thing. 

Yeah, and I feel like sometimes when we’re kind of starting to try to be more proactive with certain things with our kids, you feel like a lot. It’s like there’s an extra mental thing on top of everything else we have. But when you can push through that initial practice part, it really does start to become more automatic. Not quite on the socialization side, but one thing I’ve been working at lately, is getting that connection time in with my kids before I want to do something else. Because similar to the situation we just talked about, say I want to cook dinner and they’re really wanting my attention. It can kind of turn into that battle where it’s like, “I have to do this, leave me alone,” and they just want my attention. But when we can stop, be proactive, see that they really want attention in that time. So let’s try and give it to them before, so I can be left alone to do what I need to do. It ends up taking a huge mental load away, and we’re really taking away from your stress as well.

You’re amazing. I love that you do that. That is so key. And if you can remember in the moment that putting in the time first is actually worth the payoff in the end, it’s so beneficial for everybody. It’s a principle of reinforcement, actually, that you’re giving what they want (your attention) non conditionally, you’re just giving it for free, without without any expectation. And what that does is – if we can do that every day with our kids, if we can all focus on just doing at least 10 minutes a day of uninterrupted focused play with our kids, let them take the lead. I always say don’t direct or correct. We’re not telling them what to do, we’re not nagging them, “oh, well, say it this way, or play this way or no, you’re not supposed do that.” Just let them take the lead for those 10 minutes, it can really fill their cup. And what that does is actually prevent acting out later. 

And an added benefit, since we’re talking about the social aspect. I think when we really sit down and give our kids that time, it’s a window into sort of what’s going on in their little world. They will open up to us in a way that they might not if we’re rushing around doing errands or chores or just watching TV. Play is a way for them to show you what they’re interested in, what they’re good at. And I think a lot of times sort of the struggles will come out too. And they’ll share more.

Absolutely. It’s like that warming up process, right, like warming up to social interactions, or just warming up to be able to open up themselves. 

Yeah, exactly. And we want to lay the groundwork when they’re young. So that in middle school and high school, when the social situations become more challenging, they’re going to be more likely to open up to us. Because they’ve had this very long history of feeling like we are trusted and safe, and a safe space for them to do it without judgment, without that correction and direction.

Absolutely. I did want to circle back really quickly. You had mentioned one-on-one play dates, and then we had also talked about kind of the family situation with more kids. So say we have a child who is slow-to-warm are having some difficulties with socialization. Do you recommend trying to put more effort to the one-to-one, rather than the big groups?

Yes, absolutely. So a lot of times we see that kids who are slow-to-warm, they really sort of quiet down and turn inward when there’s a large group of people. So playing one-on-one with a kid is going to be really helpful. And I would match them. I wouldn’t just choose any random kid, I would choose a child who is at their maturity level, ideally, who’s interested in the same thing. So if they like sports, you do sports, if they like video games, do video games, if they like dolls, or art – I would try to match them as much as you can. You know, in a group of 20 – I think one of the questions you got from your community was “in my child’s class, he’s a maybe more immature than the other kids in his class, and he prefers to play with younger kids.” That’s really, really common. And that’s okay, because every child develops at their own pace. I promise you, there’s another kid in the class who’s going to be a good match for them, you just need to find them. 

So I would ask the teacher. I think that working with the with the teacher and other caretakers is going to be so important for supporting your slow-to-warm or immature child. And so ask the teacher “is there a child in the class that you think would be a good match? I’d love to ask them over for a playdate.” And then you can kind of tailor the play date to things that that child might like. Have the cool and fun house, have the good snacks; there’s nothing wrong with setting up your home in an environment that makes other kids want to be there. That’s an important part of just getting kids to together. So the teacher can be really helpful with that. 

And then once your kid sort of is able to play one-on-one with a few different kids, you would want to actually jump from two kids on a playdate to four, because what we see is that three can be a crowd. And what usually happens is the two more social kids will go off, leaving your child alone. So you want to have be able to have two pairs, two dyads, playing together. And then if you need to jump in and facilitate that’s okay. You can also build in activities that don’t require a lot of verbalization. So playing outside, watching a show and having a snack, baking. Those are things that are really fun to do on playdates that can actually give your kid who maybe doesn’t want to talk a lot, a bit of a break from having to have that back and forth interaction.

That sounds like such a great way of really doing that warm up process, by taking the pressure off of really needing to socialize right away, having some more low pressure situations, getting comfortable with the kids themselves, and then working your way up to interacting more and then bringing in more people. I also found a really interesting that you touched on going one-to-one to four, because that’s something I’ve noticed with my kids. So having two, oftentimes we will have a play day where there’s just one other. And I see that where my son tends to be a lot more social, my daughter not so much right now (pandemic baby). She was six months when the pandemic hit, two-and-a-half now. And so she’s just starting to learn those things. And I do see how she can kind of get left behind. So I really like your idea of trying for the two-to-two. 

Yeah, absolutely. Another thing that I think can be really helpful is – since we know our kids so well, figure out what they’re good at, figure out what they like, what are their strengths. And find a class for them to be able to join and gain confidence in doing something. So I know a lot of kids, maybe the team sports are not their thing, or they don’t feel very confident playing basketball or baseball, or something like that. There’s always a class that you can do, or individual sports like martial arts. I know a lot of kids like to do swimming or gymnastics or art – any of those things. There’s still a sense of community, there’s still a sense of team. In the dojo, you’re all working together with your teacher, right? So with the other kids, there’s still going to be opportunities for them to interact and socialize without the pressure of having to perform for a team

Absolutely. And like you had mentioned, that really goes a long way for building their confidence in themselves. And then it really helps to kind of push themselves to push past that comfort zone and be a bit more social as well.

Yeah. And they might find a peer in that group, because again, you want to try to match them with kids who like doing what they like to do. So if they’re both in art class, or they’re both in karate class, then maybe you can find kids to have playdates there. I know that school is sort of the primary place where kids are socializing, so it’s important to try to find one or two buddies from school. But maybe they’re in Boy Scouts, or Girl Scouts – they’re gonna meet other kids who may or may not go to their school, and that’s okay. You know, we’re practicing socialization across the board in any situation that we’re in.

Yeah. And I really like how you mentioned to really talk with the teachers, and ask if they know of anyone too. Because it can be hard, if we’re just kind of doing pickup and drop off. We might not be seeing those social interactions, we might not know of those other kids that are a good match. 


So something that has come up multiple times within our community, and I’ve seen for other people, is where their kid has started school and they are feeling left out a lot. So I think we have some great tips with talking to the teacher and trying to do those playdates – what else can we do to support them in those situations? 

Well I think all of the things we talked about, all of those proactive strategies about priming, and prepping, and role playing, and all of that, sort of lay the foundation. I also think it’s really important to teach self advocacy to our kids,0 from a very early age. And I know it’s really hard in the toddler years, when our kids are saying no to us, and they’re throwing their food off the tray, and all of that. But it’s so important for them, and building their confidence and self-esteem and their self advocacy skills, to be able to do those things. For us to allow them to say “no.” In a polite way, you can always rephrase it to “no thank you,” or “give it back,” or “that’s mine,” or “I don’t like that,” or “stop it.” Teaching them these phrases, and they can just be a few generic phrases, is really going to translate to better social skills.

So two things, you don’t want your kid to be bullied. But you also don’t want your kid to be the bully. So both ways, right? We want our kids to advocate for themselves and advocate for other kids. So I think sort of teaching them to use their voice from a really early age is important. If someone is saying something like “you can’t play with me.” I think that’s a common one that happens, my son will tell me that. He’s five years old and in transitional kindergarten, and he’ll say, “so and so told me that they weren’t going to be my friend today.” I said, “oh, wow. You know, what did you do?” And he said, “I just want to find somebody else to play with.” And certainly, we’ve talked about that and he’s learned that, over the last several months as it’s come up. But giving them options of what to do. So we don’t want to sort of inject our own feelings about it. Like “How dare you say that to my kid!?” 

And that’s what’s hard, when they’re being left out. Our poor mama hearts!

Absolutely, it is the most heartbreaking thing when our child is hurt. So we have to sort of channel that energy to a good place where we can teach them to problem solve and self advocate. So this is where the sports casting response is so important, just sort of narrate exactly what’s happening. Ask them how they might be feeling without interjecting our own emotion into it. We don’t want to name call or say, “well, don’t play with that kid,” or “he’s a mean kid.” Just say, “oh, well, how did that make you feel? What could you do instead?” And encourage them and help coach them with things like “oh, well, I can find someone else to play with, I can you ask my teacher if she needs help. I can play by myself.” It’s always an option to play by yourself, right? So there’s always something that they can do instead. They may not know what that thing is, and so that’s where your coaching comes in. But I would give them at least two other options for what they can do. And the first option should never be go tell an adult unless it’s a serious thing. They said something mean, they hurt you in some way. It’s not that going to tell the teachers a bad thing – I don’t believe in tattling. I call it telling, tattling is not a thing to me. We want our kids to communicate to us. We want our kids to tell us if they’re uncomfortable or feeling unsafe.

It’s important that they feel comfortable to tell us those things.

100%. And if that’s what they want to do, if they want to go tell a trusted adult, fine. But we want them to learn problem solving, right? I talk a lot with my kids about big deal versus little deal. Someone takes your toy? Is that a big deal or a little deal? for them it feels like a big deal. But they learn over time it’s a little deal. It’s a little deal because they can solve their own problem.

Yes, I really like how you put that. With the big and little, you can work on solving it yourself, through coaching and practicing and that sort of thing, compared to the big deal and the emergency and where you do need to seek adult help.

Yeah, absolutely. So I mean – all the parents who are feeling like “oh my gosh, my kid doesn’t have a lot of friends. Their social skills are behind their peers.” I’m right there with you. I have one of those kids. And certainly the pandemic has not helped the situation. But don’t stress too much. First of all, all kids have been in the same position, essentially, right? So we’re sort of all – even though they’re at different starting points, they’re all experiencing the same things. And so once the world starts opening up, once you’re feeling comfortable, get those one-to-one playdates scheduled. That’s my plan in the new year, I’m hoping kids are going to be able to get vaccinated, at least we can have some outdoor playdates. Really facilitate that one-on-one play, and then you build up to the two-on-two. And then they’ll be more prepared for that birthday party. And I think what’s important to keep in mind is that your kid may not just jump into the birthday party and go run off and play; they may never do that. And that’s okay. We have to be okay with that.

Absolutely. And we had talked about how we don’t want our child to feel left out. And we also don’t want our child to be the bully. Are there things we can do to help prepare our children to notice when other kids are being left out or bullied, and can play a more active role and helping that other kids?

I love that, yeah. So again, this starts from an early age too. Teaching that perspective taking, and empathy, those are sort of the building blocks to empathy. So what I would do is – from the toddler years, you can start pointing out other kids actions, very simple actions like “what do you see” Oh, mommy is pushing the baby on the swing.” Great. As they develop, “oh, how does the baby feel? Happy? How do you know they’re happy? They’re smiling.” Okay, let’s look across the park. There’s a kid crying in the sandbox, “what’s going on? Oh, he’s crying. Why do you think he’s crying? Oh, his shovel broke.” You know, kids are very observant. They’re always watching and listening, especially to us and all our curse words and anything bad we’re doing. But if we can just point out the things that they’re already observing, your kids are going to start telling you more and more things. And I think that that’s the first step to getting them to notice what’s happening around them. 

And then the problem solving kicks in. “Oh okay, so he’s crying because his shovel broke? Is there anything we can do to help? Maybe I’ll let him use my shovel.” Or maybe the kid is sad. They’re sitting on the bench and not playing with anyone; “is there something that you might want to do?” And I wouldn’t push it, I would just ask, not force them and be like “well go over and ask them if they want to play.” Again, you want it to come from within, right? Because that intrinsic motivation is what’s going to keep it continuing later. If they say, “oh, maybe I can ask them to play.” So start doing some of that just within any natural setting. They are going to start to do that on their own at school. And support other kids.

Yeah. And kids, like you said, they are so observant and ask a lot of questions. So all of those times are great opportunities for us to talk about those things and put more context to the situation, and use it as building blocks like you had mentioned. 


Well, that is so much fantastic information. This has been jam packed and really helpful. Is there anything else you would like to add that perhaps we haven’t covered yet?

I think we hit everything we were hoping to. But yeah, I would say we need to manage our own expectations as parents. I think we bring so much from our own childhood into the way that we parent. So whether you loved your childhood or didn’t, whether you’re similar or different than your child –  as long as we’re reflective, and supporting our kids to be who they are and not who we want them to be, that is what makes us good parents.

I couldn’t agree more. Well, thank you. I think this is going to be really, really helpful for our community. Where can they reach out to you? Because I’m sure they’re gonna want to see all of what you have going on.

My website is ParentingFairly.com. And you can find me on Instagram @Parenting_Fairly.

Perfect, we will make sure that is all linked in the show notes. Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us and thank you to all of our UM Club members for tuning in today. We will be continuing the conversation inside our Facebook group and group chat. So I will see you guys there. Bye! 

Thanks for having me!


Another episode over! Thank you so much for taking the time to watch and listen, I hope you like our conversation Mariko! Want to discuss what you heard in this episode? Check out the UM Club Facebook group, where we’ll be talking more about everything we learned from Mariko! Thanks again for listening, and make sure to keep an eye out for our next episode!