I recently visited my mechanic to have him remedy, among other things, a light assembly whose plastic bracket had snapped. “I use a great tool from Sears” he told me, and promptly reattached my bracket with a souped up version of the hot glue gun I use for craft
projects. A day later, I was speaking to a group of parents about children’s friendship, and the magic of the glue gun’s bonding seemed particularly relevant.
Glue guns work by heating up a plastic looking glue stick and allowing the hot gooey glue to flow out the end. Since the glue is liquidy it can flow into small areas. Within moments, the glue will re-harden into a plastic like bond. Parents would love the ability to easily mold their children – and especially to support the bonding that makes good friendships.
Parents want their children to be happy, and friends make children happy. But parents, no matter how hard they try, cannot make friends for their children. Parents can, however, learn from the glue gun about creating the right circumstances for successful bonding. First and foremost, no matter how good your glue gun, it can’t join together two items that are miles apart. Parents can certainly contribute to social proximity – making sure their children have the opportunity to be exposed to potential friends. This can include driving carpools so children can participate in social activities, hosting play dates, and even inviting other families to join your barbeque or outing, so that the children can be together.
Proximity alone does not make a bond. The glue gun uses its power to turn a rigid glue stick into a moldable substance. Parents constantly use their power and influence to soften their children’s solitary nature and mold them into social beings. We teach manners and social skills, we promote sharing and caring, and hopefully, we model friendliness. Some children will learn social lessons effortlessly, others may need significant support to master conversation skills, game playing, and negotiating conflict. The parenting shelves in the library are filled with books on teaching children social skills, and books are actually a wonderful resource. Picture books and novels often include stories of social strife and social interactions and can promote safe, non-defensive ways for parents to engage children in discussion about how friendships work and which behaviors are problematic.
My mechanic was successful in repairing my light only after he worked to align the pieces that needed to be connected and held them in place. He set the stage for success before he applied the glue. Parents can similarly contribute to the success of play dates and social interactions with a bit of wisdom and prearrangement. If you know your child is shy, and not very talkative, inviting a friend to the movies will be much easier than a 10 hour play date at home. If your child has a tendency towards bossiness or sore losing, social interactions built around sports or games may
require extra supervision or preparation. A child who struggles to join groups or start conversations may be greatly helped by being allowed to take a remarkable souvenir from the family vacation to share at lunch or recess.
I don’t understand the chemistry of the bonding that hot glue guns utilize. I’m equally mystified by the bonding that occurs, and sometimes despite all factors seeming positive, fails to occur, amongst children. I do know, however, that even without full knowledge of how or why, I can effectively use my glue gun. Through dozens of craft projects I’ve learned where it works best and when I need to use white glue, or a piece of tape
instead. Parents can develop their own expertise about what works best to support their children’s connections to friends. It may take trial and error, but the lessons learned will be well remembered and the efforts much appreciated. Anything that builds bonds and friendships is certain to be a valued tool in life’s toolbox.