Question from a Parent:
Hi, when I read your last post, I realised that my child was in a similar situation! I didn’t want to admit it initially and was very ready to push the blame to all the other children! Yet, after that post, I forced myself to admit that when he has changed 2 schools – things have not improved. I tried talking to him but he felt he has not done anything wrong. I wanted to speak to his classmates but his teacher felt that it was not right for a parent to speak to his classmates directly. Are there any strategies that I can help him with?
It is great news that you are proactive in finding out the issues that your child is facing with his peers. It would be a great idea for you to talk to your child’s teacher , school counsellor and even principal to find out more. If your child shows symptoms of severe stress such as headaches, interference with schoolwork or great reluctance of going to school, you may wish to look for a psychologist. You may also wish to try some of these suggestions:
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Make as Many Friends as Possible
While it is easier said than done, the idea of having many friends is to help your child to look for others when they are being rejected or being treated unkindly on a particular day. We have friends whose mood seems to swing on different days and this can be very confusing to your child. Explain to them that they are really unpredictable and just to leave them alone when they are ‘cold’ on those days. Encourage them to look for friends who are consistently nice instead.
Identify Behaviours that Attract or Repel Friends
When your child is able to anticipate responses to different social cues, they will be able to get along much better with others. Provide a list of annoying and polite behaviours and ask your child the following questions for each of them:
- What is the likely impact of such a behaviour?
- Why will the other child behave that way?
- How would the actions make the other person feel?
- What impression would the actions create about the person who does them?
- What would be a better way to handle the situation?
Ask them to try to and reflect before responding when interacting with peers the next day.
Sometimes, there are just kids who are just all out to tease and be mean. What should your child do? As these children only want to get a rise out of your child, get your child to practice looking bored and using the word “So?” in an even tone. The aim is for your child to look as if they are unaffected by the teasing. You can try roleplaying with your child but just ensure the words do not hurt them personally.
An Adult can be an Ally
When children are bullied, they will usually run to find a teacher to complain to. While most adults encourage this, they will have the reputation of a tattletale and this may lead to further rejection. Rather, ask your child to be visible to a nearby adult or friends by playing near them so that they can be less of an easy target and if anything is to happen, they can receive help immediately.
Talk like the Group
When children of a group come together, they usually talk of things that will be of interest to them. So imagine if they are complaining about a test and your child comes right along and says “No. It is easy. Did you even study?” Not only does it throws the whole momentum of the conversation off, your child has just trodden the tails of everyone of that group. If your child wants to be in the group, he/she has to follow the same tone, body language and similar comments for the group. If they complain about a test, he/she has to throw in a complain. If they are talking about the latest fads, he/she has to match the same enthusiasm.
However, if your child finds that the topic does not match his/her interest, it is better to withdraw than to pretend to be interested in the conversation.
Most of the time, children are oblivious to things that they may have done to contribute to problems. Ask your child to consider some of these questions below and reflect on their behaviours:
- Have you laughed at someone who made a mistake or struggling?
- Have you ever told someone you ‘hate’ another child?
- Have you deliberately called someone a silly name, even after you are asked to stop?
- Have you made fun of someone because of the way they dress, talk, act or look?
- Have you continued ‘joking’ even though you notice someone was getting upset?
- Have you ever said “Oh no!” when you have to work with someone?
- Have you ever join a group to pick on somebody?
- Have you said mean things about other before?
- Have you passed mean notes about someone?
Simple questions but more often than not, you may find your child feeling more and more uncomfortable as they go down the list.
Stop being Aggressive
Many times, there is a natural tendency for a child to be aggressive especially when they are on the receiving end of one. Research showed that if the child has a friendly connection with someone or even write about someone they love or admire, it will soften the aggression in the child after they are rejected.