What Is "Normal" 7-Year-old Boy Friendship??

Updated on September 13, 2010
J.R. asks from Broomfield, CO
20 answers

My son is 7 and in second grade. He has struggled since the beginning of kindergarten with making friends at school (mostly when it comes to befriending other boys), and I am trying to determine why. Here is a bit of information about him and his "friend history": he is not into typical boy stuff... doesn't like action figures, Star Wars, transformers, etc. We have tried numerous times to involve him in typical "boy" team sports, such as soccer, but he is just not interested. Because of his lack of interest in these things, it seems it is difficult for him to interact with other boys on the playground. He does have a passion for basketball (only when just shooting baskets... not competitive,)biking and competitive swimming, though, so it's not that he dislikes all aports. He is extremely creative and would love to spend his days inventing things and exploring the world in his own way... he is not interested in using toys in conventional ways; for example, a microphone on one toy will be disassembled and taped to some legos to create his own version of a radio. He is average when it comes to academic skills, and he is an average-looking kid, so I don't think he is regarded as different in those ways when it comes to his peers. He is not overly friendly when meeting new people, so I think he loses opportunities because of this. He is not mean and does not hurt others... he just sort of fades into the background. He says that he often does "nothing" at recess or just plays "by himself". I think other kids would say he is a nice enough kid, but he has developed only one "good" friendship with another boy, and when that child is playing elsewhere, my son just shuts down and doesn't attempt to play with others. He does, however, tend to hang out with girls more often than boys. I am happy that he has so many "girl friends", but I think it's important at his age to become "one of the guys" and also have some good guy friends. I worry that if he doesn't build those friendships now, he will eventually be left out and potentially ridiculed for it. A couple of the girls he knows also invited him to be part of a "club" where they tell him who he can and cannot be friends with, and this troubles me.

So I guess my questionas are: does anyone else have an experience like this? Is it normal for a boy to behave this way? Am I overly concerned? Should we continue to encourage him to branch out or just let him figure it out on his own? I don't want to be an overbearing, controlling mother, but I also want him to be on the right path with building and keeping friendships. Any help anyone can offer would be most appreicated.

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So What Happened?

I am overwhelmed by and extremely thankful for the amazing responses you all have given me. I can't thank you enough! You have helped me by offering great suggestions, but more importantly, it is so reassuring to know that so many of you have experienced something like this with your own children. Sometimes we (my husband and I) feel so alone in this, and it's hard to ask our friends for help, so it's nice to be able to come here and get honest feedback.

one suggestion iven by several of you was Cub Scouts. He actually did participate in Scouts in 1st grade and will be starting again in a couple of weeks. It has been a great experience; however, his good buddy... the only boy he really hangs out with.... is also in scouts, so it seems he has not really made the effort to get to know anyone else. His den leader is a wonderful lady, though, and per someone's suggestion, I am going to ask that she help me in guiding him towards building other friendships.

Wanted to write more bu my 2-year-old found me. Hopefully, I can say more later...

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answers from Provo on

It sounds like you are describing my son. He is now 12, but he's very much like you are saying and has been that way for awhile. My son is ADHD and has some other stuff going on as well.

He is very much into Star Wars, Legos, doing his own thing, taking apart toys and making them into something else. He also is not a fan or sports... I tried to get him headed that direction at a young age and he was just not interested.

He's had a hard time making and keeping friends. He's finally at the age though where he has found a few good friends. For the most part he still would rather be on his own but he's wanting to hang out with other friends more.

It might just take some time.

I'd love to talk more if you want.




answers from Denver on

what about Cub Scouts? that might be a good environment for him to both show off his creativity and engage with other boys. I would also arrange play dates with one or two other boys - he may need to get know kids in smaller settings.

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answers from Pocatello on

J.- He's still young. I think if it were me I would let him figure it out on his own. If you make a big deal about it then he WILL feel like he's different. I think any friendship should be encouraged, so if it's girls he enjoys right now so be it. He will eventually figure it out on his own. Maybe you could host a back to school party inviting girls and boys. Maybe on his own turf he'll feel more adventurous....
Good luck!

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answers from Denver on

I am going through the same thing with my son who is in 3rd grade. He is into technollogy and games and really hasn't found that one friend who he can connect with. This school year I changed his school hoping that would help and it is still to early to tell. One thing I have done this year with him is before school I tell him a question to ask one boy in his grade level. Today's question was "what is your favorite show" When he gets home he then tells me what the kids favorite show is and they end up talking about alot more things that just shows.

Another thing to remeber is maybe your son as well as my son are comfortable within themselves and are alright with sitting and don't always need someone to entertain(sp) them.
I hope this helped

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answers from Provo on

You just described my husband to a T. He gets along great with people much older then himself. In fact he was considered one of the "adults" at family parties by the time he was 7-8 years old. His own grandmother, as she got dimensia would remember him better than her own sons and called him "son". His friends now are our parents age. He was always taking things apart to either see how they worked or create something better. His parents would make him put those items back together. Because of this, he is very good mechanically. But he can see things three dimensionally in his mind and see how they work and should be put together. My husband did not like competitive sports as he did not like to hurt peoples feelings.

I would not discourage your child from these traits. He will be very successful in life if you give him his "space" in play. He is probably average in class also, because he is bored! He doesn't see the "why" so he does the bare min. to pass the class. My husband his senior year missed more days then he attended. Walked in on days of tests, and passed the tests better than his class mates. The only reason he did not get a 4.0 was because he never did any assignments. So his grades reflected that of his tests.

He is currently a V.P. and making twice what any of his (or my) family members are making (including is parents put together). He is extremely successful because now he has his "why" are works very hard at it! He is also very successful with are kids and he relates to them better than most any one. He helps them see the purpose in school...and they are excelling better than either one of us did!

As long as he does not seem depressed or upset. Than encourage him to find his own happiness...something I have learned in life is there is only one person who can make you happy and that is you! So don't push him to have lots of friends, he doesn't really need them. All my friends ended up being back stabbers any ways and I played with my own siblings more than any one else.



answers from Boise on

My soon to be 14 year old and 6 year old are just like this. They love each other because they understand each other. Neither of them complain about lack of friends and their teachers often tell me how they are both very popular with everyone in the school. I don't think there is anything wrong with having a boy that isn't rowdy, rough and tumble. Both my son's are very musically talented and artistic. Now that the older one is in high school he if finding popularity in other things like science. He is even more popular with girls now because he is sensative to them and not just interested in their physical features but he is still very much a boy.



answers from Denver on

Your son sounds a little bit like one of my own twin boys - age 6. His brother loves sports and makes friends easily but he has few friends and most are girls. We discovered last year, with the help of the school principal, that he is a "Visual Spatial Learner". After readign up on what this meant, it really helped us to understand how he thinks, etc. He takes things apart and doesn't play the way other kids do. Basically, he thinks in pictures! You migh wan tto check this out as i tsounds like your son might be similar and it might help you to understand him and how he makes freinds. Our son only relates to other kids like himself, and there aren't many in his class! He prefers to play by himself alot and is really into art, music, creating, math, how things work, etc....it truly is a gift but can also be a big challenge!



answers from Denver on

I'm sorry you're going through this. My son, who is now 12, still has problems making friends. He has lots of girls who are friends, but boys are elusive. He doesn't really like sports, but he loves technology stuff. When he was younger, he did Cub Scouts and that seemed to really help. He is a bit better now and has a couple of friends who are boys...

Is there one boy at school he connects with? Maybe you can have that boy over for a playdate. Have something structured to do (I had playdates with other boys for my son, but he never knew how to play with them!) And try cub scouts, the meetings are usually very structured and they accomplish things which is good for self esteem.

Good luck to you!



answers from Portland on

Wow!! You could have been describing my seven year old son. I worry about his social development as well. He is intelligent, kind, funny and likes doing physical activity, just not in agressive and confrontational ways. I don't have an answer as to how normal it is, but I have a kindred spirit here.


answers from Fort Collins on

I would not worry about your son right now. It sounds like he is a good kid...and perhaps a quiet kid. And that is OKAY! So he likes to hang out with girls..as long as the girls are nice people, does that really matter? (the bossy girls in that "club" don't necessarily sound like a good group, though) As a former teacher, did your worry about the boys that liked to hang out with girls or vice vesa? Of course it is always different with our own children, but sometimes it is good to look at things from a more objective point of view. The important thing is that he spends time with good people..and time by himself, if that is also what he enjoys. We must remember that our children are each their own unique beings with personalities and likes and dislikes and strengths and weaknesses all their own. We do not shape most of that. Our job is to help them learn and grow and discover who they are...not tell them who they are or how they should be. As long as he is happy (ask him!), just help him along the path...he will lead.

PS I love and agree with Mary L's response.



answers from Salt Lake City on

You have a LOT of good responses, and I totally agree that he sounds like a wonderfully creative and amazing kid (and that creativity is more connected to intelligence than being able to regurgitate the answers). And I agree that not all kids make the same kind of relationships, and his friendships with the girls sound ok (although I would quash the club thing that says who he can be friends with. I've told my kids that no one else has the right to say who they can or can't be friends with - a real friend wouldn't do this)

One thing did strike me, though ... He does sound somewhat like a couple kids I've known growing up who had high-functioning autism/aspergers - difficulty relating in social situations, very very creative and building and stuff like that, and a lot of focus on things/activities that appeal to them. Now, it's most likely NOTHING at all and please don't freak out (and aspergers is WAAAAAAYY over-diagnosed right now, imo) but it might not hurt to talk to his doctor about the whole thing. Put it all together like you did here so she can see the full picture (if you've just brought up one part or another in isolation it wouldn't give the same picture). Again, it's probably nothing and she can let you know, but if you're concerned, it doesn't hurt to ask.

Good luck! Kids go through such difficult stages sometimes, and as parents its so hard to watch. Just be his biggest supporter and cheerleader in what he choses to focus on and the friendships he does have, and he'll make it through!!



answers from Denver on

Hi J. - you've received a lot of great responses. I wouldnt worry too much, your son sounds like a really great kid. Just keep presenting him with opportunities to try new things and to be open to friends among his sports clubs and activities.

Remember introverts are energized by having alone time and interacting with people takes a lot of energy. Extroverts almost universally dont understand this and think it's abnormal. (says the extrovert who's married to an introvert) :) Just a question - is it your son who is unhappy or is it more how you are feeling?

Be encouraged, I cant think of a 7yr old boy who doesnt like shooting hoops, riding bikes or playing Legos and Bionicles. Any of the kids in your son's class would have a great time doing any of those on a playdate.

Your son may not have the personality type to initiate but that is where you can help. Have your son give you the names of 2 or 3 boys he would like to have a playdate with and then set them up. Most boys love being invited on a playdate and consider it an act of friendship that carries through to their time at school.

I keep playdates pretty short - no more than 45-60min after school. It might be playing Legos and then going outside to shoot hoops or maybe riding bikes to the playground.

I would also limit his time playing with the Girls Club since they sound pretty controlling - that's not good in any situation. He probably likes them because they do all the talking so he doesnt have to.


p.s. I just read a post about considering autism - please dont buy into that one. That's a perfect example of an extrovert not really understanding an introvert and thinking "something must be wrong with you - how could you NOT need time with other people to be happy?"



answers from Denver on

I have not read any of the other responses, so I appologize for anything I may repeat. This behavior is "normal" for your boy. If he is making good friendships with someone it doesn't matter their gender. I think you should focus on the things he DOES enjoy, not what you think he SHOULD enjoy. If he's really into biking and swimming, focus on those and maybe he'll form relationships with boys in those classes since they enjoy the same things. Your emphesis on being "one of the boys" may not be realistic for your boy. Maybe he'll be an unique artist or quirky inventor! Maybe he'll be the next Michael Phelps or Lance Armstrong. Maybe he'll just be plain Johnny down the street who prefers reading science fiction novels to trollin' the mall for chicks. Maybe he'll be a band geek. My point is, he'll be what he is and trying to force him into some box that you think is the right one will only make it that much harder for him to be him. Examine your own values and see why you think it is so important for him to be "one of the guys" What does that even mean? Does it mean popular? Isn't it more important for him to be happy and healthy with 1 or 2 good friends? Maybe he identifies with girls better...so what?! As for the club...explain to him that he can be friends with anyone he wants and that it feels really bad to be excluded from something and maybe remind him how he felt in a similar situation. Other than that. Let him be himself and work it out on his own.



answers from Los Angeles on

I am in the similar situation.My son turning 7 next month is lonely at school.When we have friends over he just fades in the background and kids come and mess up his room and walk all over him.He is just timid and shy .
He doesn't have any friends at school and one day told me that nobody wanted to be his partner in the daycare after school and so he doesn't want to go there anymore .It broke my heart.Sometimes he tries to get attention in a negative way like disrupting the class and the teachers have complained.I know why he is doing that but I don't know how to help him.
My husband told him he will get a gift if he goes and talks to a new kid every day or makes a friend.But still not much improvement.
He doesn't like soccer .He loves to paint and draw .Every day since Kindergarden i dread what the teachers will complain from school.
I just don't want him to grow up and have pshycological problems.
I tried setting up playdates with other kids in class but the mother just wasn't interested.Maybe she thought her son will get bored with my son.
My son has no friends .



answers from Salt Lake City on

Hi, J.-- I wish you lived closer so we could get our seven-year-old sons together! I really relate to a lot of what you describe, so please don't feel your child is some kind of odd-ball. It ripped me up last year when I asked my son what he did at recess and he said he kicked the frost off the curb by himself. He is settling in better now, but he is still selective in his peer interactions and learning to be less awkward. Here are a few things I've learned:
If the child is OK and not unhappy, then things are OK. It's important that I not try to project my own social anxieties onto my kid.
I have several friends who homeschool their children, and while my family does not homeschool full-time, I like to create an atmosphere of learning, so I've read a lot of homeschooling-angled books. One point that is often made is how unnatural it is to be in a large group of children who are all the same age. Some people believe this typical American classroom set-up is pretty much a bully factory. In a mixed-age setting, the older kids help the younger kids, but in a same-age group, children who are confident or dominant may take over and boss around the less-assertive children. This sounds like it may be happening with your son and some girls--second grade can be a time of major social development for girls especially. If he is a generally nice boy and doesn't tease or play rough and is good at imaginative game, he may fit right in to the girls' games and accidentally become a victim to their social games when things go sour. Just be sure he knows that while it's not OK to be unkind, he doesn't have to play with anyone if he doesn't want to, and he doesn't have to limit his friendships at someone else's request. He may also benefit from some time spent with older or younger children so he can teach younger ones how to do something and learn from older ones. Look for another family you can have family events with to appreciate the mixed-age group and build social skills and confidence.
I like the recommendation of Cub Scouts--that will be great when he turns 8, since that's when it starts. They do a lot of small building projects and crafts that your creative son may love. They also practice some public speaking skills by telling jokes and such.
My sons are enrolled in gymnastics classes and they love it. I love that my seven-year-old is in an all boys' class that is taught by a man, so he has a chance to be "one of the guys." He has enjoyed it so much, and it made me realize that nearly every other aspect of his life is run by uppity women! ;) I'm usually with him, his school and church teachers are women, his dance and swim teachers are women, and so on. His dad is his soccer coach and is a wonderful father, but it's good to know a few more guys, too. He loves gymnastics since it is more a competition with himself to do his best and improve; same with swimming and dance at this age. I figure, as an American male he's going to get a ton of competition introduced to him as he grows up, so there's no need for me to push it if it's not his thing just yet. Although--my son has loved AYSO soccer camps during the summer since the British (male) coaches are so fun and enthusiastic.
Finally, you might really appreciate the book "Hold on to Your Kids" by Dr. Gordon Neufeld. This book really reassured me. Neufeld talks about the all-too-common phenomenon of "peer orientation," when children and teens shut out all healthy adult role models and become fixated on their peer friends. It's common, but it's not healthy and leads to risk-taking behavior. That book helped me remember that it is OK for me to filter my child's social life a bit, and that he is so well-connected to his family that he has very little attachment energy left for peers he may simply not relate to just yet. . . and that's perfectly healthy, shows security and not an indication of social awkwardness in the future.
Perhaps your son would enjoy a play date with another boy if there was a project to do, instead of just free play? You could bake cookies or make paper airplanes or do a science kit together.
Consider having a family night with another family, so your child can play with another boy while both families are having a bbq. Having family around could help him stay comfortable and allow you to offer support as needed. Maybe some games or a fun project, like packing up a box to send to a soldier or hygiene kits for a homeless shelter. You could take your son shopping for the componants and then let him help explain to his friend and friend's family how to pack things up.
You are not overbearing or controlling--you sound wise and intuitive and loving. Best wishes!



answers from Denver on

I have a kid like this. She NEVER complained about lack of friendships. Sort of an artsy & creative free spirit; good physical shape but not into sports; good musically but doesn't want any more lessons; kids like her but she's happy to be alone.

When she was in early elementary school, I used to ask the teachers to set her up on the playground with another similar kid who might also be playing by themselves. That worked okay (it broke my heart to know she was alone on the playground).

When I switched her to a Christian school, that helped a little bit too (got reports back from several different new kids that the girls were much nicer there than at the public school). That has definitely been true; she's been there 3+ years now.

This past summer at age 13, I encouraged her every few days to telephone one of the girls she sat with at lunch last year. She would visit one of these girls (or girls from church) about once every ten days, plus enjoys youth group. This was her first summer ever that she really, truly had kids her age to consistently play with. (The girls on our street who are her age are snotty and manipulative--I actually find their behavior shocking.)

Again, she's totally likable, but these more passive, creative kids are NOT the kinds portrayed on any kid show. The children nowadays are taught to be aggressive and flock to aggressive kids. Look for art classes and chess clubs and boy scouts. He will click and flourish eventually. Your son is adorable, and you will eventually be grateful about his creativity (I'm not saying your not grateful now) and much more relaxed about the direction it takes him in life. Blessings to you!



answers from Colorado Springs on

J., I'm answering from a grandmotherly perspective, and I hope I'm not too old-fashioned. You're a former teacher; what does your son's current teacher say? (I realize that school has just started; maybe you want to ask his last year's teacher.) It sounds as if you have an extremely creative boy whose mind goes in very interesting directions. Are there any art classes you could put him in just so he could have some fun? Any mechanical or scientific activities in your area for this age group? Maybe at a museum?

My older son was a little like that when he was at that age. His second-grade teacher was quite concerned because he was always playing with the girls! Of course, he had sisters at home, so that was what he was used to. It was about third grade that he attached more with the boys. Even then, he was always more into individual sports than team sports - in high school he cheered the basketball team his friends were on, but he managed the team instead of playing on it, and became proficient at tae kwon do instead. He was always very creative; when he grew up he became a chef, and is currently creating a web site about food safety for consumers. (And he is married and has three little daughters, so you could say he's still playing with girls.)

I hope you'll encourage your son to look at his classmates as interesting people and find out the interesting things about them. They may have activities outside school that might appeal to him. You might try some one-on-one play dates (as opposed to a group, which as you know is a whole different dynamic). That girl clique? It's too bad that they start at such a young age; I wouldn't want that for girls or boys. It's a type of gang.

Don't let your son start comparing himself against other kids! (You'll see enough of that when he's thirteen.) Teach him that he is unique and that everybody else is, too. You want him to grow up being comfortable as to who he is (not that he can't improve) and enjoying the worth of others as well.

Want to do a little reading just for yourself? Find an old kids' book (on eBay or Amazon) by Ethelyn Parkinson called "Rupert Piper and the Boy Who Could Knit." You'll enjoy this cute story about a boy who is not quite like the other guys in his small town.



answers from Denver on

Have you looked into Cub Scouts? He can start as a Tiger Cub if he's a first grader.




answers from Pocatello on

Every child is different. My first boy played with toys in a very similar fashion as yours, and my second boy also likes sports (the first didn't). With my first son (and shy daughter) I asked the teacher to please pair them with a kind playmate (in sitting inside, at lunch, and when it was time to play) to help them figure out the social thing. With my third child (the second boy) I asked the teacher to please sit him with obedient *girls* because he has better self control with girls and will be less distracted. Back to the 1st boy.. I also requested from the counselors office thay he be included in a "making friends" type of class when he was a bit older.
The school has tools to help you, and a sensitive teacher can guide him in making friends if you let her know. In the meantime, I would trust that he is "normal" and facilitate where you can, and make sure he has a great self-esteem based on what he enjoys, not what groups he joins.
GOod luck!



answers from Salt Lake City on

He sounds like my son. He didn't like to play much with boys either, at this age, they were kind of rough. Well, come the 1st day of high school, my son was at lunch with 10 pretty girls at the table, and suddenly all of the boys wanted to be his friend and sit with him at lunch! LOL sometimes we just have to let our kids have their quirks.

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