Children learn many things through relationships with best friends and frenemies alike. Important discoveries made through peer relationships help to develop a child’s view of the world, whether their world is safe, if people are safe and how much power they have over their interactions. Once they are out navigating social situations on their own kids begin to see there is not only compassion and kindness, but there can be negative aspects inside people, too. This is when kids discover that some people are just mean for no reason. It is understandable that suffering rejection can feel very personal and at the same time like it’s the end of the world. Feeling misunderstood outside of the home is a challenging concern. But, being the naturally resilient and open minded little people that they are kids can bounce back from tough times. Luckily, with a little bit of learning through recent research, adults can enable kids to understand and respond to playground turmoil with kindness and grace.
In one study involving over 800 kids ages 5 to 7 only 4.5% (38 kids) didn’t have anything negative to say about their peers when they were asked who they disliked and why. In fact, this same study found that there are three main reasons children list for “rejecting.”
The first reason is purely preference and those things which kids have in common such as a love of animals, playing sports or something they find to be worth embracing. One interesting thing about preference is that kids might choose to leave another child out of a group so that they can feel more included and these decisions have nothing to do with the rejected child’s behavior.
The next reason is unfamiliarity. When the rejecting child is reluctant to find common ground they are reluctant to form a new friendship. Decisions based on unfamiliarity have nothing to do with the rejected child’s behavior, instead this is rejection based on not accepting those who might appear to be different.
The third reason kids tend to reject is the one which makes the most sense and this is all about behavior. Behaviors which are outside of the norm, acting out, being bossy, showing aggression or a general lack of social skills are those most cited for rejection.
Kids want to be around other kids who are like them, kids who share the same values and kids who are kind and compassionate. As a parent, it is important to model these behaviors in life. Adults can teach kids that although it can be scary to keep reaching out to people for fear of rejection they shouldn’t let one person or one group convince them that there is something wrong with them. Keep looking for the friends in life who cherish the same things others might not like because those are the same kids who are looking for them too!
Don’t minimize feelings but do encourage resiliency. Check out the articles below for more great resources on helping kids cope with rejection.
Young, K. (2017) Playground politics-What drives peer rejection? Retrieved from http://www.heysigmund.com/playground-politics-peer-rejection/
Mercury. (2012) Helping kids cope with the rejection of social exclusion. Retrieved from http://www.illawarramercury.com.au/story/1565518/helping-kids-cope-with-the-rejection-of-social-exclusion/