It's a tough pill to swallow when no one likes your child, but it's easy to identify.
You see other children happily playing in groups, but when your child tries to join, the mood changes. Maybe the group stops mid-game and moves away as your child approaches. Maybe they openly tell your child he can't play with them. When no one likes your child it can be devastating to him and to us.
Our first response to this is usually to intervene in the group and tell the children it isn't nice to exclude anyone, and that they must let everyone play. In this age of frequent anti-bullying messages, it's easy to think the solution is to force the group to change.
But, does this solve the root problem of a raising a child that no one likes? Does this response help the child identify social cues that others find his behavior off-putting? Does it allow him to grow into an adult who can navigate complex social situations and modify his behavior to be acceptable?
Before I go any further and give you my two cents on this issue, let me assure you I am not talking about your child. I am not talking about any particular child that I know specifically. I am telling you some things I have found beneficial in my own growing up years, in teaching in public schools, and in raising my own eight children for 20+ years.
Let me tell you a story of 6th Grade Me to give a grasp of what I am talking about.
When I was in 6th grade, I was a very bright child who was happy and outgoing. I found myself in a brand new middle school that year, which was slightly unnerving, but I was confident in my abilities to excel in school, so I didn't worry too much.
Sometime during that fall, I remember realizing that the other students in my Language Arts class despised me. I couldn't understand why. I was smart. I was cute. I was friendly. What could the problem be?
I don't know how the conversation came about, but I specifically remember Dee Dee Williams telling me point blank, "No one likes you because you always know all the answers. Why can't you just let someone else answer sometimes?"
This was the very first time it had dawned on me that my behavior had been obnoxious. I mean, the teacher would ask questions, and I would raise my hand to answer them while everyone else sat idly by. She would call on me, and I would always be right. Every single day. I had never realized that what I was doing was discouraging the other students from even trying to answer, all the while alienating every one of my classmates with my "know it all" posture.
This revelation was painful to me at the time, but it also served as educational. I knew first hand from that time forward that no one likes a know it all. This didn't mean that I pretended to be dumb or refused to answer questions. It just meant that I modified my behavior to allow others to feel they had a chance to answer also. I left room for others to feel smart and important instead of selfishly taking all of that attention for myself.
This brings me to the point of my post. When no one likes your child or no one lets him play in the group games, instead of rescuing him and demanding that everyone can play, what if you allow him to realize and benefit from cause and effect?
I don't mean for this to be a cruel exercise in allowing our children to be bullied, and I don't mean for this to apply to children who have mental challenges that make social situations difficult. I am simply suggesting that we allow our children to understand, as much as they are able, that their behavior has consequences. What if they have genuinely never considered how their actions can be annoying to others? How about asking the following questions to help your child explore what could possibly be going on?
- "If no one wants to play Freeze Tag with you, is it because you cry whenever you get tagged? No one likes to play with a cry baby."
- "If no one wants you on their team, is it because you complain about the way the game goes every time you play? No one likes someone who is always complaining."
- "If no one wants to talk to you, is it because you only ever talk about Minecraft? No one likes to talk to someone who hogs all the talking time or only talks about themselves."
Those are just a few examples of how the conversation might go. I have had conversations like this with my children, and although not easy to hear, I believe each time they were able to understand how their behavior was contributing to the problem.
Let's face it, we all probably know an adult or two who would have benefitted from this kind of frank honesty years ago, before they became set in their habits of obnoxious, self centered behavior. If you don't want your children to become set in those habits, now is the time for these difficult conversations.
It is much easier to help when no one likes your child than it is to try to deal with an adult that is annoying and has practiced that for years.
If you enjoyed this post, see also "10 Signs your Child Might Be Spoiled and What To Do About It."