Do people get crazy when other kids don't like their kids? Like, is that a thing? I'm not sure why that would be a thing, but I guess I wouldn't know since every decent and sane person alive loves my kids. Why the hell wouldn't they? My kids are freaking awesome! Wait, have you heard something else?! OK, so us parents can get a little intense about our children being liked. Please, for your kid's social legacy, try to find some non-crazy ways to respond when other kids are mean to your kid. If you don't, their crazy mom just might end up being the main reason other kids stay away from yours.
My kids are super lovable, all the time, to every person they have ever encountered or could ever possibly encounter, so I've never really had this problem in real life. OK, maybe I've had the problem once or twice. Kids have conflict! We all do, of course, as it's part of life and sharing a planet with other human beings who are just as complicated as you are. So it stands to reason that there will be people that don't like our kids throughout their lives. So it's best they (and you) learn how to deal with it in a totally "non-crazy" way now, instead of sending them off to college with the idea that they're mommy's perfect little angel who is the biggest blessing that ever existed in the entire history of the universe. I mean, come on.
Hopefully, my list of non-crazy ways to deal with another kid not liking mine will help you navigate this sometimes treacherous teaching moment with your own brood.
Befriend The Other Kid
Sometimes kids don't like one of my kids because they're different than what most children have been taught to assume is the "status quo" kid. I've noticed that if I, in my quirky way, befriend said kid who seems a little hesitant about my own, they are much more likely to warm up to my not-always-socially-savvy kid.
This is especially helpful when it's a random kid on the playground that might never see us again. The experts at the Child Development Institute encourage parents to, "scan the available candidates in the neighborhood and to select a child who would make an appropriate playmate. Sex is not an issue. At this age and under these circumstances boys and girls play equally well together." Who said playground politics were easy, right?
Align With Other Authority Figures
"Other authority figures" could very well mean teachers or principals. Before you worry that I'm going to make things worse for my poor kid, please stop that line of thinking right in its tracks. Serious bullying is a serious problem. I believe it's best to take a community approach to potentially problematic situations before they start. In fact, KidsHealth.org encourages parents to get someone (the principal, school nurse, or a counselor or teacher) involved. The site goes on to say these authority figures "are often in a position to monitor and take steps to prevent further problems."
For example, my autistic kiddo's teacher and I have an ongoing communication about how my kid is interacting with other kids. This allows us to have more of an idea when and if we need to intervene.
Have you noticed, dear reader, that teachers can be ridiculously amazing? They have all kinds of teacher-related tricks up their sleeves to get kids to like each other, or at least cooperate without the kid ever knowing they were a project. Thank you to all the incredibly magical, severely underpaid teachers, who do unimaginable work every single day. We can never thank you as much as you deserve!
Make Friends With The Kid's Parents
This is especially helpful if the kid is in the same school as mine. Making friends with the parents aligns the parents with you. Such an alliance can only work to my kid's advantage. If anything, at least the other parent may not turn a blind eye to any trash talking that ensues. In dealing with potential bullying, Parents suggests parents "contact the offender's parents," saying it's the best form of action if "you feel like these parents will be receptive to working in a cooperative manner with you."
And, hey, even if it doesn't bring our kids closer, at least I made a new friend!
Teach Classmates About Autism
One of my kiddos is autistic. Sometimes people don't like them (they also use gender neutral pronouns) because they don't understand them. That's easy enough to fix with a little education and awareness. What To Expect has a few great suggestions on how to help kids learn about autism, including making space for kids to ask honest questions, using the "gaming system analogy," and including kids in local autism events.
Teach My Kid About Social Contracts
At the same time, my kid still needs to survive in the world when they're not under my wing anymore. Part of my role is to teach them about the social contracts and how to read social cues that often times don't come so easily for people on the Autism spectrum. This can help relieve some of their social anxiety, and help them be able to relate with non-autistics.
The Child Development Institute says, "Children with learning disabilities may have difficulty processing information form the social environment or have difficulty with self-expression," and goes on to recommend an extra source of information for parents, saying, "An excellent resource for helping these children to make and keep friends in No One To Play With. This book has many practical suggests that parents can use and see the results.
Use Constant Positive Reinforcement
I make it a point to tell my kid that he is amazing and anyone who doesn't like him must be out of their mind because what is not to like? This especially works for my 5-year-old son who is super sweet and sensitive to how others take to him. Parents takes it one step further, though, and suggests parents "praise progress" by letting their children know how proud of them they are, especially if parents witness their child defuse a situation with a potential harasser, or make a new friend.
Practice A Script
Parents also encourages caregivers to practice a script with their child, should they develop a problem with a particular student in class and/or kid at the playground. "Rehearse the right way to respond to a tough kid (you might even use a stuffed animal as a stand-in) so your child will feel better prepared." Practice makes perfect, and being able to handle social interactions is no exception.
Promote Positive Body Language
Parents tells caregivers to "encourage positive behavior" by promoting healthy body language. The site goes on to explain, saying, "By age 3, your child is ready to learn tricks that will make her a less inviting target."
Michele Bora, Ed.D, a Parents advisor and author of The Big Book Of Parenting Solutions, encourages parents to "tell your child to practice looking at the color of her friends' eyes and to do the same thing when she's talking to a child who's bothering her." Bora claims this will force your child to keep their head up and appear more confident.
Be Involved At School
Do enough aligning, befriending, educating, and volunteering at the school so that you will be a parent "in the know." If you're anything like me this can start to feel like you've never left high school (gag.) But the truth is, if you're talking to other parents, teachers, administrators, and are just plain in the know you'll be able to suss out if there is a real bullying problem going on, or if it's just a case of two personalities not liking each other (which is totally normal and will happen from time to time). The National Education Association (NEA) encourages parents to "get to know their [kids'] classmates and friends" and to "volunteer your services to the classroom whenever possible."
I realize that anyone able to actually do this has quite a bit of time, resources, and likely financial privilege. If you can't be there all the time, it's OK to be there a little bit of the time.
Explain That It's OK
Talking to my kids when somebody doesn't like them is heartbreaking for me, but totally necessary. I'm a big fan of telling kids the truth, in age appropriate ways of course. The truth is, not all people like all other people. Sometimes there is not any one thing that you did to make them dislike you, there's just a personality conflict, and that's totally OK because there are people my kiddos would rather not hang out with, too. That doesn't make either party bad or mean-spirited. It just means you're probably not going to be lifelong friends.
In fact, Today's Parent encourages parents to have "bedtime chats" with their children if they find that they're not fitting in at school. This one-on-one time, in which you can really "level" with your child, will help them understand what's going on, why, and how to handle rejection in a normal way.