Helping your child feel good…
even if they get rejected
By Randy Cale, PH.D
There will likely be times when your son or daughter gets rejected or excluded. They don’t get called for a birthday party or they weren’t picked to be on the sports team or someone called them an ugly name. All of these can be hurtful, and your child will benefit from the right kind of support.
For some of you, these moments will be infrequent. Your child usually fits in. That’s fortunate.
For others, your children may not be so fortunate. They may be a bit awkward…maybe a little “geeky”…or perhaps just very shy. Sometimes it’s just the clothes they wear. At other times it’s about a “difference” that makes your child stand out, and other children make fun or ridicule them for it.
But at one time or another, almost everyone will experience getting picked on or rejected by their peers. It’s going to happen.
You can likely see the consequences. Your child might be moping around a bit. Some children will talk with you about it, others won’t, but you’ll pick it up from their behavior. Other than the obvious emotional upset, there are other consequences of such rejection.
Rejection and exclusion reduces self-control
Some interesting research suggests that kids who feel excluded or rejected demonstrate a loss in the sense of self-control. In other words, they perceive themselves to have LESS control over their choices.
For example, when feeling excluded and rejected, children tend to initiate less, give up easily and are more inclined to overeat or to eat junk food.
What is clear is that being rejected reduces a child’s normal motivation to control their own behaviors. With lowered motivation for self-control comes more reactivity and more need for “immediate gratification.” Your child may show less patience and want it right now!
Parents: You can do something about this!
The same research suggests a reason to be optimistic and hopeful. Researchers found that when we are made aware of the change in behavior, corrections can be made.
In other words, when parents point out the change in behavior by specifically noting, “Sweetheart, you seem to be giving up too easily on your math and ask me for help when I know you can figure this out. Try a little harder, and I will check on you in a few minutes. I know you can do it.”
That type of supportive coaching by parents will help to turn things around for children.
In specific situations where your child has experienced rejection and you see a change, you can simply comment on the change in behavior, and emphasize that, “I know this isn’t easy, but it’s not good that you are letting it stop you from doing your best. You can do better if you try.”
You may notice more impulsivity or that they are eating more or that they seem more easily frustrated. That’s where you gently comment on their behavior, and let them know that mom and dad are absolutely confident that they can do it better. This seems to be remarkably beneficial in these situations, and it’s very simple.
Here are a few more examples:
“John, you keep throwing down your pencil today. That’s just not like you. I know it’s frustrating to not make the team, but I also know that you can do better with your homework. Why don’t you take a few minutes off, and then come back and get that done while keeping your cool.”
“Alicia, that’s the third time that you’ve yelled at your brother today. I understand your friends were mean to you today, but you can handle this better, and I expect you to do that. The next time that you lose your temper, you will need to take a timeout.”
“Stephen, you seem to be eating like a mad man today. You can slow down, and finish what you have in your hand, but that’s all. I know that you are upset about the teasing today, but eating like this will not help. We can talk about it more if you want, but eating more is not the answer.”
The strategy here is that you comment on their behavior, affirm that it’s okay to be upset, but also insist that they have more control and that they can do better. It’s simple and the preliminary research suggests a powerful effect on short-term choices with you children.
Try it out and see if it doesn’t make things better for your kids. Rejection is a tough experience, and we can all get ‘hooked’. If your child gets too caught up in the feelings, their behavior will reflect it. This strategy gives you a tool to help pull them out. Let me know how it works at DrCale@TerrificParenting.com.
Dr. Randy Cale, a Clifton Park based parenting expert, author, speaker and licensed psychologist, offers practical guidance for a host of parenting concerns. Dr. Cale’s new website, www.TerrificParenting.com offers valuable free parenting information and an e-mail newsletter.
Helping your child feel good…