Children can sometimes be particularly cruel and misbehave with each other, no matter how much we try to prevent this. In their in-depth study, psychologist Stephen Asher and colleagues used miniature microphones and hidden cameras to see what social interactions were like between children and third through sixth graders, when they are at lunch, on break or in the gym. They recorded them from October to June over the course of a school year and presented a list of thirty-two types of very disturbing rejection behaviors.
Some forms of rejection are physical, such as hitting, kicking, taunting the rejected child, or damaging the rejected child's belongings. There are verbal ones, such as imitating, saying that the child is bad or naughty, insulting his friends and family.
Rejection is sometimes not expressed in words or direct actions, but simply by being ignored. Sometimes the rejection is very quick - for example, hitting the child on the back and saying something offensive.
Studies show that children who are disliked by their peers are more likely to be rejected. Asher's research found that even children who consider themselves best friends sometimes cruelly reject and insult each other. Impulsivity, immature problem-solving skills, difficulty managing feelings, limited ability to put yourself in another person's shoes, following the crowd, or simply experimenting (what if…?) are all factors that contribute to children misbehaving.
The research also shows that depending on how children react to rejection, the situation can get worse or better. Some children manage to diffuse rejection by ignoring it or responding to it with humor or playful banter. In contrast, children who became very upset and necessarily wanted revenge or desperately tried to gain approval only made things worse. Asher even cites an example of a child who actually incites others to hit and be rough with a girl in an attempt to gain friends.
What to do for parents whose child has been rejected
It's easy for the parents of the rejected child to focus only on that (and get angry!), to repeat how bad the other children are, but usually this is not a solution. We have seen cases where children are victimized through no fault of their own. For example, they are new to the school, they are smaller or the others are slightly smaller. Often, parents whose child has been rejected repeatedly think that he will feel better in another school or in another class. Or if they intervene through a scandal and they themselves offend the child, affecting their own. And in fact, it can do more harm than good.
- Talk to your child - try to get him to express his feelings, tell you what is happening and what worries him. In no case do not force him if he is not ready to talk to you.
- Do not interfere with scandals and quarrels - it is a gross mistake, if two children have prevented each other, for the parent to intervene and dispense "justice". For a small child, such intervention means the following: If you hit or insult me, Daddy will hit you too. You yourself realize how harmful such a message is.
- Talk to the other child and try to defuse the tension. If it's an incident rather than something permanent, try to understand the problem by hearing not only your child's point of view, but also the other person involved in the situation. Show that you are not taking sides, but are trying to resolve the dispute.
- Help your child socialize. Very often, difficult communication and rejection are the result of a child's inability to adapt to the group. These skills are built in early childhood, which is why it's helpful if your son or daughter isn't with you all the time. Give them the opportunity to be in a different environment for a while, and not be "stuck" to mom.
- It is important to learn to recognize rejection - is it just a fight between children or is it a problem that has deepened and as a result of which your child feels lonely, sad and inferior.