Book Review: "I Want to Make Friends"

Reviewed by Glen Palm, Ph.D., CFLE
CFLE Network
Content Area
Human Growth and Development Across the Lifespan
Parent Education and Guidance

I Want to Make Friends. B. Annye Rothenberg. 2012. Perfecting Parenting Press, Redwood City, CA. ISBN 978-0-9790420-4-1, LC 20119 19081. (

I Want to Make Friends combines a children's picture book story with a focused parenting manual for guiding social skill development in young children ages 3-6. The story depicts a young boy around 5 years old who is having problems making friends at school. The story illustrates some of the typical patterns of behavior in young children as they are learning to navigate the social norms and expectations of a typical preschool or kindergarten classroom. The young boy is aware of the problems when he realizes that no one wants to play with him. The story shows both teachers and parents demonstrating how to guide Zachary in developing new social skills that help him to understand the perspective of others and to find positive ways to enter into play with other children. The story is engaging for the young child and teaches both the child and parent about effective strategies for interacting with peers and forming friendships. It is a good example of a children's book that addresses both the child and adult audience and their different needs.

The parent section of the book provides a detailed exploration of different patterns of common social skills challenges in young children. This section begins with a brief introduction to social skills development in young children and the roles that parents play in promoting these skills through their interactions with their child at home from taking turns in conversation to coaching them through solving typical problems with peers during play dates. The author goes on to explore different patterns of social behaviors that are problematic with young children including: the "bossy child", "annoying child", "physically aggressive child", "quiet child" and the "thin-skinned child". Each of these patterns is described and explanations are offered for why these patterns may develop. The role of parent-child interactions is explored as an important influence on developing social skills in young children. Parents are provided with concrete strategies, including scripts for addressing specific situations and coaching children through resolving problems with peers. The author uses two case studies to illustrate how parents can grow to understand their children, implement new strategies for interacting with their child and how to work in concert with the other parent and teachers. When parents are not able to guide children through the recommended strategies the author suggests working with other professionals and describes how this might happen in the case studies.

The parent section is concisely organized and allows a parent to focus on specific patterns of child behavior and the strategies that address these patterns. If you are a parent who is concerned about your child's bossy behavior with other children you could go to this section and explore both possible causes and ways to manage this type of behavior. I appreciated that the children's story gives parents specific strategies for supporting growth in social skills. The story also provides an opportunity for parents to see how their child reacts to the situations in the story. This could lead to a better understanding of their child's thinking. The parent section of the book provides guidance for parents to: 1) reflect on the influence of their own behavior; 2) implement specific strategies to manage child behavior and 3) suggest specific ideas for children to try. A thoughtful problem-solving approach is modeled for parents, which considers different factors in addressing a specific behavioral concern. For example, with the quiet child, such factors as age, child birth order, parent-child relationship, or speech-language development should be considered in analyzing how to approach the quiet child. I found the scripts helpful as examples but parents will need to adapt their own words. Both the words and emotional tone that parents use need to be genuine and consistent to be effective. Parents will also have to regulate their own emotional expression as they implement the strategies that are recommended.

More information on how social skills actually develop in young children would provide a useful description of typical patterns as a context for understanding the "problem behaviors". All children will benefit from some guidance about social skills. Some children will need the more specific strategies that are described and others may not. All children learn these skills in the social context of their family and school or child care settings during this age range. The parent role will vary depending upon the child's ability to regulate their emotions.

I would recommend this short book (48 pages) as a useful resource for early childhood teachers and parent educators to share with parents of young children who may be experiencing one of the patterns that is identified in the parent section. Parent educators may also use the information for creating a session on understanding and supporting social skills in young children. The book reflects the rich insights and practical experience of the author in addressing specific concerns of parents about patterns of child behavior for young children who may be struggling with developing social skills and friendships.

Reviewed by Glen Palm, Ph.D., CFLE, Professor of Child and Family Studies at St. Cloud State University. He is the department chair and coordinates the Parent Education Licensure Program at St. Cloud State. He has worked as a parent educator in the community for 30+ years and coordinated The Dad's Project, a local initiative of the Early Childhood Family Education program in St. Cloud and continues to teach a parenting class to incarcerated fathers at the MN Correctional facility in St. Cloud.