Responding to Social Exclusion
I remember elementary school all too well. One re-occurring memory was being left out. I never was very athletic and if a student was going to pick teams during gym class or for a game on the playground, my name was sure to be the last one called.
As a child it's extremely difficult to feel left out. The technical term for it is "social exclusion". Even adults get offended if they hear of a party that all their friends seemed to attend but they weren't invited to. Have you ever seen photos of a wedding posted on social media only to wonder why the bride and groom didn't invite you? There's even organized exclusion such as Costco, Sam's Club, and gated communities. You may find this funny, but it's totally true.
The reality is that as hard as it is to get left out, being excluded is a part of every day life. In order not to be hurt by exclusion we often have to lower our expectations and understand that not everyone will invite us to their party and not everyone will want to be our friend. The best way to manage our emotions is by managing our expectations.
If you are wondering why someone might be excluding your child, here are some possible reasons...
1. Your child is doing something to cause it
Did your child do something to offend or anger this person? Might they have acted in a way that caused them to decide that it would be better to leave them out? Sometimes the honest truth is that we are the problem and our behavior is pushing others away. Take a mature assessment and ask if there is any legitimate reason why someone would want to exclude your child. If so, work with them on recognizing and changing that behavior. Ask them if there actions are friendly or unfriendly. Raising their awareness of how they are impacting the situation can certainly help them understand the relationship dynamics.
2. There isn't enough room
When it comes to social gatherings or groups of friends sometimes we often put a clear limit on how many people we invite or who we invite in an effort to manage the social experience. A few years ago I invited all of my friends out to dinner for my birthday. It turned out to be way too many people. Instead of getting to enjoy dinner and spend quality time with my friends, I spent the evening rushing around trying to greet everyone. At the end of the night I had only spent a brief moment with each person and I was exhausted.
Now I only invite a few friends and prefer to see others outside of this evening. It's not that I want to leave anyone out but that I'd rather invest quality time with a few friends.
3. They are trying to make your child upset
One way people try to bully (or dominate) others is by excluding them and trying to make them feel like no one wants to be their friend. If you think this is the case, then you must first recognize their motive... they WANT to make your child upset. If they DO get upset, the other person will succeed/win and your child will lose. What should your child do? Choose not to get upset.
Tell your child "Don't give them the satisfaction of ruining your day. Instead be calm, brush it off. Secondly, treat them like a friend. If you are mean back to them they will see you as an enemy. Instead, continue being kind to them, no matter what they say. They will likely feel bad about how they are treating you and may even choose to include you in the future."
This article was based on the philosophies of Izzy Kalman, NCSP, the leading expert on bullying, who has tirelessly pioneered strategies to help bullying victims for over four decades. You can learn more about Izzy's work here.