How do you teach a child to overcome rejection at the playground?
Yesterday I took my 3 ½ year old daughter, Sienna, to a soft play gym. We recently moved house so the play gym and all the other children were new to us.
Upon arrival my daughter, husband and I found a table. I then took Sienna’s hand and headed out for our first exploration. Within fifteen minutes we traversed both jungle gym structures and located the important areas like the bathrooms and food counter.
When coming across other girls, I spoke to them in an effort to demonstrate the concept of friendliness to Sienna. Ideally, I want her to make friends easily and go off and play so I can save my knees and perhaps enjoy a conversation with hubby. Every so often my strategy works, but more often than not it doesn’t.
Making friends with children to introduce to my child isn’t ideal
Furthermore, as I ponder this action I’ve realised that it’s no good if I’m making friends on Sienna’s behalf. That’s teaching her to sit back and let others come to her or have mom take care of her social interchanges. Nope that won’t work.
Seeing my child experience rejection, however, is heart breaking
But what breaks my heart in half is when I see her playing alone or attempting to join a group only to be left by the wayside. I feel such deep pain and sadness when she jumps into a group with smiles only to be left alone with her head down and eye’s watering. It’s my pain and sadness.
Witnessing Sienna’s rejection reminds me of the rejection I felt
When I was a child I was so afraid of life. I was so afraid of people. So afraid that I wouldn’t be loved or accepted. Someone would have to merely look at me funny and I’d decided that there was something unlikable about me. And I’m not talking about just my younger years – I felt this way until I was in my early 30’s! I flat out BELIEVED that I was broken. Why would anyone want to be my friend anyway? I’m ugly, worthless, a ‘nobody.’
Experiencing rejection vicariously is not an outcome I want in my life
Oh….how wrong I was. I’m happy I don’t feel that way anymore, however…watching your own child experience the fear of not being accepted is like reliving a nightmare that you thought was gone! What the heck!!
It’s not that I want Sienna to be Miss Popular – I just want her to feel comfortable in her own skin. I want her to realise that if other children don’t want to play with her, it’s not personal. It doesn’t mean that she’s faulty! I also want Sienna to realise that all she needs to do is look at everyone with loving eye’s – to send them love and be open to who responds. There’s no need to fear. There’s no need to feel insecure. So, let me get a bit more concise here.
What do I want to teach my child about making new friends and handling rejection?
- If other children don’t want to play with you, respect their decision, but don’t take it personal. There will be times when you don’t want to play with others too. It goes both ways.
- Look at all children with love. Send them all love and smile and it won’t take long to find someone that is eager to make a new friend.
- Be kind. Ask them what their name is? Tell them something you like about them. People like people who are loving and kind to them.
Now that I have a clearer idea on what I want to teach my daughter, how can I go about it?
How can I teach my child to make new friends and handle rejection?
- Lead by example. I need to demonstrate what I’m teaching by going out there and making friends myself (Yikes). If a group of people don’t want to talk to me, I need to demonstrate that I don’t take it personal.
- I need to look at people around me with love and approach them with love.
- I need to be kind and ask them what their name is! Perhaps it will help if I point out good qualities in other people. For example, ‘Oh look at that woman – doesn’t she have beautiful hair?’ or ‘Look at that guy – he looks so kind.’
Leading by example – helping us both to grow?
On one hand it scares me to become more social but on the other hand, it will benefit me and my daughter immensley. Thinking about it, I think I’ll grow much more than she will.
With our upcoming sailing trip around the world (leaving March 2014), both Sienna and I will need to make friends quickly and easily. If I can lay the foundation as soon as possible, I won’t have to see her cry in the corner, look sad while children pass her by or empathise with her feelings of rejection.
Finally, and within the context of ‘How Life Really Works,’ I need to believe not only that I make friends easily, but I can also teach my child to do the same. I need to install these beliefs/thoughts in me so the end result is having the ability for both Sienna and I to easily make friends at the playground. I need to teach us both to also be resilient. If someone doesn’t befriend is, that’s perfectly fine.
But what actions will I take going forward?
From an action-related perspective, I’ll add to my ‘to-do’ list, find a ‘how to make friends easily’ hypnosis/meditation audio and I’ll consciously look for situations where I can strike up a conversation. Rather than habitually being quiet, I’m going to look for opportunities to demonstrate friendlyness. Rather than sit back I’m going to take a leading role in making new friends. And if/when I get what looks like a rejection, I’m going to brush it off and go share my love with the next person.
What do you think? Any other tips on how I can teach Sienna or myself to make new friends and handle rejection if we receive it?
Kim Brown helps people to find their life’s purpose and exponentially increase their fulfillment. To get started read Kim’s book, ‘How Life Really Works: The Answer to Finding your Purpose & Personal Fulfillment’