"Try telling him it's a non-optional social convention."
—Sheldon's friend, Howard
In one episode, Sheldon doesn't understand why he should buy a birthday present for his friend, Leonard. From Sheldon's point of view, Leonard doesn't need anything and hasn't said he wants anything, so it doesn't make sense to get him anything. After trying to explain gift-giving in multiple ways, Sheldon's friends tell him it's a "non-optional social convention," which finally convinces him.
The lesson: "No matter how many times you explain the reasons behind a social rule, it may not make sense to some kids," says educator Amanda Morin. That's especially true for children with social skills issues. It's important for your child to know the"why" behind a rule. But sometimes it's enough for him to know that some things are "non-optional social conventions"—you do them whether it makes sense to you or not.
"Actually, I had him tested as a child. Doctor says he's fine. Although, I do regret not following up with that specialist in Houston."
The lesson: When a child struggles with social situations or in school, some may say it's a "behavior issue" or he's a "brat." Others may say the child is "too smart" to have any issues. However, if you feel something more is going on, Morin says it's important to trust your gut and see a specialist for an evaluation. The better you know your child's challenges, the better you'll be able to get him any help or support he needs.
"It occurred to me you hadn't returned any of my calls because I hadn't offered any concrete suggestions for pursuing our friendship."
The lesson: "Many kids need direct coaching on how to connect with other kids and make friends," says Morin. They may have a hard time learning to compromise and understand that friendship is a give and take. While a friendship "algorithm" is likely too much, it can help to set aside time to teach your child ways to make friends. You can't always expect him to pick these skills up on his own.
"I have spent my whole life trying to bring order to the universe by carefully planning every moment of every day."
The lesson: Kids loves routine. Sometimes, it's not because of stubbornness—it's because of anxiety about the unknown.
When you need to break your child's routine, let him know how things will be different. Give him as much choice as you can to help ease the anxiety. Talk through with him why things change. Over time, your child's schedule and need for routine will become more flexible. And you'll be able to avoid meltdowns. This is a good lesson for parents too, because with kids, not everything can be planned.
Content continues below ad
"Leonard, I am overwhelmed. Everything is changing and it's simply too much. I need to get away and think."
The lesson: As parents, our first instinct is to want to swoop in and fix everything for our kids. But we can't always do that. We also can't expect our kids to be able to recover quickly from tough situations, especially when they're overwhelmed.
What we can do, Morin says, is respect our kids' need for space, while being available to them when—or if—they're ready to talk. It's a humbling lesson to learn as a parent.
Like The Big Bang Theory? Learn how watching TV with your child can help improve his social skills. Also, check out 46 quotes from iconic TV shows and films.