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Whether it's starting school for the first time, joining T-ball or attending a parent-child music class together, it can be challenging for young children to learn how to interact in a group setting. That can be stressful (even for mamas!), but it's actually part of the value of enrolling your child in a class. They will learn not only about soccer or gymnastics, but about how to wait for a turn, how to make friends and how to control their impulses.

While we know these social interactions and even stumbles are important, we still want our children to have the best experience possible. No one wants their child to be the one always getting in trouble or fighting with other kids.

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Here are a few methods to help your child succeed in group settings:

1. Communicate expectations

If it's your child's first foray into a group setting, tell them the expectations ahead of time. For a sports team, this might mean listening to the coach and keeping hands off the other kids. For a music lesson or story time, it might mean sitting down during the class.

Make sure to take a few minutes to reflect on whether the expectations are reasonable for your child too. Some 2- or 3-year-olds are simply not read for many group settings.

2. Give one-word reminders

If your child is struggling with a certain issue, like remembering to raise their hand to talk, think of a one-word reminder or gesture. Sometimes simply making eye contact and raising your own hand can be powerful. Use the reminder word as your child goes into class, or even send a little note in their pocket with the word and a little doodle.

3. Practice

Practice whatever challenge your child is working on at home. If they're struggling with coming when the teacher calls, take it to the backyard and practice running around, and then calling your child's name. Ask them to stop and look at you when you do this, and then give a silly instruction. Practicing following the rules can be a fun way to connect to your child.

4. Run around first.

If your child is going to school or a different class where they will be expected to sit for a while, help them release energy beforehand. Encourage them to run around the backyard or a nearby park for 20 minutes before you go. Exerting this abundant energy can help a child be successful when it's time so sit still.

5. Ask them to help you

This is one of my favorite tips I learned as a teacher and I use it with my own child regularly. If your child is struggling to follow a rule, ask them to help you remember. For example, if my son is struggling to walk (not run!) in music class, I say "I need your help. Will you please help me remember to walk today? If you see me running in music class say, 'Stop mama!"

It's fun and whimsical and makes your child feel like you're in this together.

6. Leave if necessary

Obviously you can't pull your child out of school, but if you're at an extracurricular class together and things are rapidly deteriorating, don't be afraid to call it a day. This isn't to punish your child, but to protect them.

If they're having an off day and simply can't handle a group setting at the moment, taking them home will protect them from feeling bad about themselves, from feeling the judging eyes of others on them, and from feeling your own disappointment in their behavior. Children can sense these things.

7. Talk to the coach or teacher

It can be hard to know if your child's behavior is within the range of normal. If you're unsure, talk to your child's coach or teacher. Ask if your child's behavior is normal, and if it's acceptable or causing problems for the class.

8. Check in

After they've attended a few times, check in with your child on how they think a group class is going. Do they like it? Is any part of it hard? Do they need help with anything? What's their favorite part? Encourage your child to judge their own behavior and struggles.

9. Talk about issues when you're both calm

Talk to your child about any behavioral issues you're seeing, but wait until you are calm. If you're feeling really angry or frustrated that your child was terrorizing art class today, it's not a good time for a productive discussion. When you're both calm, talk to your child about what you're seeing and ask for their input in coming up with a solution.

10. Notice good behavior

The last thing we want is to give our children the impression that they aren't good or that they're a problem child. Children internalize these impressions and tend to live up to the expectations. Make sure to notice your child's good behavior in a group setting, especially if they're struggling. Saying phrases like, "I like how you raised your hand to talk today" or "I noticed you being so respectful to your coach today" can go a long way towards boosting your child's confidence.

11. Empathize

Let your child know that you recognize being in a group setting can be a challenge. Say something like, "Remembering to raise your hand can be so hard" or "I know it's so frustrating when you really want a turn and you have to wait". You can even share an anecdote about a rule you've had trouble following to show your child you understand and that their struggles are normal.

12. Observe the other kids

We're naturally hyper focused on our own kids, which can make it seem like they're the only ones struggling to behave in a group. Next time you're with your child in a group setting, take a few minutes to watch the other children. Odds are, yours is not the only one struggling. Seeing this can help you keep perspective and understand reasonable expectations for a child of a given age.

It takes time for most children to learn how to be in a group. This is where they learn how to be respectful toward an authority figure, how to recognize and adhere to social rules and how to make friends. They have to do the hard work of figuring out these life lessons themselves, but using these strategies can help set them up for the best experience possible.

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When it comes to holiday gifts, we know what you really want, mama. A full night's sleep. Privacy in the bathroom. The opportunity to eat your dinner while it's still hot. Time to wash—and dry!—your hair. A complete wardrobe refresh.


While we can't help with everything on your list (we're still trying to figure out how to get some extra zzz's ourselves), here are 14 gift ideas that'll make you look, if not feel, like a whole new woman. Even when you're sleep deprived.

Gap Cable-Knit Turtleneck Sweater

When winter hits, one of our go-to outfits will be this tunic-length sweater and a pair of leggings. Warm and everyday-friendly, we can get behind that.

$69.95

Gap Cigarette Jeans

These high-waisted straight-leg jeans have secret smoothing panels to hide any lumps and bumps (because really, we've all got 'em).

$79.95

Tiny Tags Gold Skinny Bar Necklace

Whether engraved with a child's name or date of birth, this personalized necklace will become your go-to piece of everyday jewelry.

$135.00

Gap Brushed Pointelle Crew

This wear-with-anything soft pink sweater with delicate eyelet details can be dressed up for work or dressed down for weekend time with the family. Versatility for the win!

$79.95

Gap Flannel Pajama Set

For mamas who sleep warm, this PJ set offers the best of both worlds: cozy flannel and comfy shorts. Plus, it comes with a coordinating eye mask for a blissed-out slumber.

$69.95

Spafinder Gift Card

You can't give the gift of relaxation, per say, but you can give a gift certificate for a massage or spa service, and that's close enough!

$50.00

Gap Stripe Long Sleeve Crewneck

This featherweight long-sleeve tee is the perfect layering piece under hoodies, cardigans, and blazers.

$29.95

Gap Chenille Smartphone Gloves

Gone are the days of removing toasty gloves before accessing our touchscreen devices—thank goodness!

$9.95

Ember Temperature Control Smart Mug

Make multiple trips to the microwave a thing of the past with a app-controlled smart mug that'll keep your coffee or tea at the exact temperature you prefer for up to an hour.

$99.95

Gap Flannel Shirt

Our new favorite flannel boasts an easy-to-wear drapey fit and a flattering curved shirttail hem.

$59.95

Gap Sherpa-Lined Denim Jacket

Stay warm while looking cool in this iconic jean jacket, featuring teddy bear-soft fleece lining and a trendy oversized fit.

$98.00

Gap Crazy Stripe Scarf

Practical and stylish, this cozy scarf adds a pop of color—well, colors—to any winter ensemble.

$39.95

Nixplay Seed Frame

This digital picture frame is perfect for mamas who stay up late scrolling through their phone's photo album to glimpse their kiddos being adorable. By sending them to this smart frame to view throughout the day, you can get a few extra minutes of sleep at night!

$165.00

Gap Crewneck Sweater

Busy mamas will appreciate that this supersoft, super versatile Merino wool sweater is machine washable.

$59.95

This article was sponsored by GAP. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and Mamas.

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You may have watched your child struggle during play dates, talking over their friend, laughing when the joke is no longer funny or becoming too upset over the littlest thing, and wondered when or if you should step in.

As a mama, coaching your child to improve their social skills is the best way to help them learn. Some kids need help developing social skills that will allow them to feel comfortable interacting with others. But when a football coach is watching a football game they do not suit up and take over. They make notes to give the players at half time.

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The best thing you can do for your child is to coach them in private and then act as a silent observer when they are putting their skills into practice. Let your child take ownership over the skills and then you can discuss afterward how it felt.

Here are a few strategies to help you coach from the sidelines during play dates, mama:

1. The problem: The other child is being mean and not listening to your child's requests to play with certain toys.

Should you interfere: Yes

Reason: This is a great teachable moment. Being mean is never okay. Explain that everyone should be treated with respect.

What you can do: Ask the other child if there is something you can help with. Help the children problem solve and set expectations for things we can say or not say.

2. The problem You hear your child being rude and thoughtless.

Should you intervene: No

Reason: As long as your child is trying to practice his emerging skills, it is important for you not to interfere all the time. As long as your child or the playmate are not being mean or cruel, allowing your child and their playmate to work out sharing and meeting each other halfway is part of your child's growth. Additionally, feedback from other children help your child learn about social communication and its consequences—what's funny, what isn't, what keeps play going and what stops it. Any challenges are just showing you what you need to work on before your next play date.

What you can do: Employ a subtle cue or code word to remind your child of his mission like entering the room with snacks, suggesting a specific game or saying a code word like "popcorn."

3. The problem: The children are excited and implementing dangerous behavior.

Should you interfere: Yes

Reason: Whenever there is a safety issue you must jump in to make sure all children are safe. If children are playing with something dangerous, planning an adventure that will lead to safety issues, playing too rough or playing in a space that is not child friendly, jump in and make sure the children know what they are doing is unsafe and what your expectations are going forward.

What you can do: Reinforce safety rules. Create a space and situation where danger is removed and manage any behaviors that might cause harm.

4. The problem: A specific toy or activity is causing arguments between the playmates.

Should you interfere: Yes

Reason: This is a great opportunity to teach your child how to manage conflict.

What you can do: Limit your management of the situation by promoting problem-solving, suggesting that the children put the toy away and offer them a timer to promote turn-taking. After the play date, help your child formulate strategies to help your child learn to manage conflict with friends. The goal is to teach your child the skills to manage relationships without you.

5. The problem: Your child is being clingy and is coming to you to solve every problem.

Should you interfere: No

Reason: You want to help your child stop the clingy behavior rather than reinforcing the idea that they can constantly come back to you.

What can you do: When your child repeatedly approaches you, ask them to think about how they can handle the situation. Prompt them to problem solve, ask what is making them come back so often. Remind them of their mission. What can they do to have fun in the circumstances they're in? Explain that you expect them to try that before coming to get you.
Ultimately, your goal is to help your child generalize the new skills and behaviors—take them from the small stage of home practice to the larger one of a play date. To do so, your child needs to learn to recognize and address what's getting in the way.


Learn + Play

We know how it goes, mama: You finally start finding your footing in the new mama life, and them BAM! Baby is up again at all hours and you seriously don't know why—or when you'll ever get to sleep again. The good news: The 4-month sleep regression is normal, common and temporary. You've got this. But in the meantime, we tip our ☕️ to you!

We talked to the experts at the Baby Sleep Site. Here's what they had to say about how to weather this sleepless storm:

Sleep regressions are normal

The 4-month mark is a big milestone, because it marks the first (and usually the most disruptive and challenging) sleep regression of your baby's life. At 4 months of age, your baby undergoes some major brain developments that impact her sleeping patterns. They become more aware of the world around them. And simply put, your baby starts sleeping less like a baby and more like an adult.

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What changes can I expect?

During this time, you can expect a baby who may have been sleeping fairly well is suddenly waking up every 20 minutes during the day, and almost as frequently at night. It's also common for your little one to experience shorter naps, fussiness at nap and bedtimes and a general disdain for sleep.

Sleep regressions are different for every baby, but you can expect the regression to last from two to six weeks.

This is a challenging time, but try not to worry. Your baby will be looking to you to help navigate them through this—and there are many ways you can do that.

The solution

There is really no fix for the 4 month sleep regression; these changes to your baby's sleeping patterns are permanent and unavoidable. But don't despair. You CAN reclaim your nights by simply teaching your baby how to fall asleep without the use of any sleep associations, like rocking or feeding to sleep. That process is called sleep coaching but understand that it's not for everyone. But if sleep is a real problem in your home, then sleep coaching can be a nice option.

Sleep coaching methods include putting baby to bed drowsy but not asleep, picking up your baby for a bit when they cry and then putting them back down, sitting in a chair to provide a reassuring presence, or even allowing baby limited time to cry it out. There is no one size fits all method for babies and families, so you need to test what works best for you.

Also, understand that four months is generally the earliest you should work on sleep coaching, and it's best to use gentle, gradual methods at this young age.

Sleep times will vary

During this time, you can expect your baby to sleep 14 to 15 hours each day—11 to 12 hours at night and three to four hours during the day spread out over four or five short naps. Some babies are able to sleep eight straight hours or more at night by 4 months, but the large majority don't. In fact, one to three night feedings are still considered very normal at this age. Learn your baby and discover what works best for your little one.

Be flexible

Your baby may be ready for a more by-the-clock sleep schedule at this age, but many aren't, so be flexible. You are still learning what works for you and your baby, so give yourself grace. Know that things will get better and the discomfort of the 4-month sleep regression is temporary.

Do what works for your family and trust yourself to know your baby better than any external authority.

Learn + Play

When James and Kimberly Van Der Beek recently announced they were expecting their sixth child, we were thrilled for them. And now we're devastated to hear that the Van Der Beeks have lost this pregnancy.

The announcement came via Instagram, where James wrote that he and Kimberly are "Wrecked. Devastated. In shock."

"We've been through this before, but never this late in the pregnancy, and never accompanied by such a scary, horrific threat to @vanderkimberly and her well-being," Van Der Beek wrote. "Grateful that she's now recovering, but we've only just begun unpacking the layers of this one."

James Van Der Beek on Instagram: “Wrecked. Devastated. In shock. That’s how we’re feeling right now after the soul we thought were going to welcome into our family in…”

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This is the fourth pregnancy loss for the couple, who are already parents to 9-year-old Olivia, 7-year-old Joshua, 5-year-old Annabel Leah, 3-year-old Emilia and 16-month-old Gwendolyn.

The Van Der Beeks have previously spoken publicly about their journey through miscarriage, with James suggesting last September that the word "miscarriage" isn't the right one to describe what parents go through when a pregnancy is lost.

"'Mis-carriage,' in an insidious way, suggests fault for the mother—as if she dropped something, or failed to 'carry,'" he wrote on Instagram. "From what I've learned, in all but the most obvious, extreme cases, it has nothing to do with anything the mother did or didn't do."

The couple announced their most recent pregnancy 13 months after James made his passionate statement about miscarriage. We wish they didn't have to go through this again, but are grateful to them for speaking out about a pain so many parents can relate to, and one that too often goes undiscussed.

On her own Instagram account, Kimberly posted a video of her youngest daughter playing with a nanny and wrote: "It was a TOUGH weekend. Extra thankful right now to have help with my kids. Keeping these cuties happy as can be while I replenish at home."

Get all the rest you need, mama. We know this hurts. Our hearts are with you.

News

If you're not familiar with Birdies, Meghan Markle is a big fan (and we're a fan of anything she's obsessing over). The popular flats are incredibly comfy and can be worn as slippers at home or out and about for maximum comfort while still looking as chic as ever. The secret? The insole is comprised of seven layers, starting with memory foam cushioning and shock absorption foam and ending with a soft, quilted satin that has arch and heel support.

And now you can have a major twinning moment with your littlest love because Birdies has taken their best-selling silhouette and created four limited-edition mini-me styles.

Say hello to Little Birdies, the *cutest* shoes for your mini.

The Little Starling in black velvet

little birdies shoes

The Little Starling is available online now and comes in black, two glitter shades and a calf hair cheetah print. Easy to slide on and off, they're made just like mama's so kids can easily wear them without having to worry about buckles or laces. We're all for anything that gets us out the door quicker in the morning.

They're made for kids ages 5-12 (sizes 13-4) and range from $40-$60 depending on the print. The best part? They each have a matching adult pair.

$40

The Little Starling in cheetah calf hair

the little starling shoe

We've tried them and can confidently say the memory foam cushion sole feels like you're walking on a cloud. And, we're not alone. Meghan Markle has been spotted wearing them multiple times and the reviews are amazing. Just check out how cute they can be styled on their Instagram.

The Little Starling fits true to size, just keep in mind the initial fit is a bit snug until it molds to your foot over time. We'll take one in each color, please!

$60

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