Welcome to Good Parenting, our weekly online series on parenting advice with Annapolis, Maryland, expert Dr. Deborah Wood.
Dear Dr. Debbie,
My 7-year-old daughter is a Brownie Girl Scout, and I’m a co-leader for the troop. There are twelve second- and third-grade girls who all go to the same school. There are several girls in the troop who have trouble sharing, waiting for a turn, in general, being respectful of the other girls. Conflicts sometimes end in tears. Any suggestions of what we can do to help them get along better?
Co-Leader Looking for Co-operation
Click here to read Dr. Debbie’s tips for dealing with mean girls.
There seems to have been a steady decline in social skills over the years. We can point the finger at transient communities and fewer long-term friendships for children, smaller family size and less family time, and the convenience of non-human interactions through video watching and video game playing. School time, too, has unfortunately become focused on academics and test taking leaving little time for relationship building and tending.
A Girl Scout meeting is a wonderful opportunity to learn all the “soft skills” that are essential for getting along in childhood and in life. How? Use traditional scout games and songs that promote the very skills you see lacking. These activities help children to pay attention to the others in the group and help them feel valued as a group member. As a Girl Scout, camper, and troop leader, I learned (and continue to share) oodles of group games and action songs, most of which you can probably find on the internet if not from seasoned scouts and leaders.
Maybe you’ll recognize some from your childhood?
Co-operative games involve everyone and don’t have winners or losers. The point is just to enjoy being together. The best songs for Brownies would include hand and or body motions so the girls are physically engaged in the activity, or a round or harmonized song such that they are working together to make the song work, or “fill in” songs in which each girl takes a turn to add an idea. For example, one at a time, each girl adds the next animal for Old Mac Donald’s Farm, and then everyone sings all the previous animals back to the beginning.
You might ask all the leaders in your service unit to come prepared to teach an action song or cooperative game at your next leaders’ meeting. Or invite older scouts to teach games and songs to your troop. New games and songs are best learned through repetition, so be sure to repeat until learned.
Since a big part of scouting is traditions, make games and songs part of the regular routine at each meeting. Start off with a group game and include an action song with your ending routine. There are songs and games that work well in the car, too, so include some the girls can use when the troop takes a trip.
Songs and games are not only easy to use and lots of fun, they will help build the social skills that are so important for our children to learn.
Deborah Wood is a child development specialist in Annapolis. She holds a doctorate in Human Development from the University of Maryland at College Park and is founding director of the Chesapeake Children’s Museum. Long time fans and new readers can find many of her “Understanding Children” columns archived on the Chesapeake Family Magazine website. You can find her online at drdebbiewood.com.
What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments or submit a question to Dr. Debbie at Betsy@jecoannapolis.com