There are kids, especially in the older groups, that come to us having had nothing but experiences of social rejection. They feel defeated and angry. They have no friends, have given up, and say that they don’t care. And, their ways of coping with prolonged rejection, can make things worse.
Peer rejection is a two-way street. When a child has no friends, that child or teen is typically struggling with one or more of these barriers to friendship:
- Thinking they are funny when they really aren’t (for older kids, this can be in the form of “shock” or “creepy” talk);
- No understanding of personal space and boundaries;
- Being bossy, rigid, and controlling with peers;
- Getting stuck on one topic or an unusual interest;
- Missing or misreading social cues and feedback;
- Speaking in a rude, mean, or disrespectful tone of voice;
- Behaving in aggressive ways or struggling with impulsivity;
- Poor sportsmanship; and
- Over-reactions to something that is done or said.
Social skills are something that does not come naturally to these kids. Just like math and athletic skills can be challenging for other kids. The difference is, most kids aren’t rejected for not being good at math or sports, but if a child has weak social skills, they are painfully rejected for who they are as a person. The process of helping them with these skills is the same. Just like you would get a tutor for math or a coach for tennis, the same can be done for social skills.
Do you recognize your child or teen as having one or more of these barriers? The younger you begin with social skills coaching and tutoring, the more successful your child will be. Trying to start this process at the end of middle school is a lot harder. Kids are hardened by their experiences and may feel that nothing will get better. It still can, but we can’t create interest in or motivation to improve. The older child must bring that to the table.
I am currently working with some kids that feel this way, and are presenting with lines of defense that come from years of hurt and rejection. My wish for them is to allow us the time to show them that it can be very different. Here is a group of kids that won’t reject you. Here are some true, potential friends. You need to do your part to see how social success is a two-way street and work with us on those things that have gotten in your way before. Please, try this one more time. If a teen is open to coaching, we can open their world.