A good friend reached out with this story and perhaps you can relate.
There was only a week left for school for her third grader and things socially seemed to be going south.
Randomly, it was a new game at recess that was getting in the way and creating a problem. The kids called the game It.
It started out fun but took a turn when a small group decided to include a boy who had no idea he was part of the game. As eight year-olds do, the game simply consisted of running around near the boy. It was fairly innocent but it made her daughter feel uncomfortable because it felt mean. She didn’t want to play and so instead of choosing another game, they excluded her.
Until this point, Candace liked school but suddenly getting her up in the morning became a real struggle. With summer around the bend, my friend didn’t want this to become a bigger deal in her mind over her vacation. She was already thinking about starting out fourth grade on the right foot.
It didn’t get solved overnight. They talked to Candace and told her to ask the kids to stop. She tried. They didn’t.
Ignore Bad (even if it’s well intended!) Advice
Extended family members insisted the other kids should be treated like bullies. My friend refused to do this. She insisted that they were good kids but they were doing something that had to be corrected. No need to label.
She listened to herself.
She asked Candace if she wanted her to discuss it with the teacher or the parents of the kids. She indicated that she wanted her to talk to the parents of the other kids first (more on this later) before going to the teacher — but to wait.
She listened to her daughter.
Persistence & Role Play
Both she and Candace’s dad encouraged her to ask them to stop one more time and then did some role play with her. They pretended to be the other kids, they asked Candace to stand straight and tall, look them in the eye and ask them to stop in a calm and firm voice.
On one of the very last days of school and after more encouragement and practice, Candace approached her classmates once again when they got to the schoolyard. She told them, I don’t like this game. Let’s play something else.
Candace felt empowered. My friend felt relieved and proud.
Things don’t get solved overnight but with grace and space, some listening skills, parenting strategy, including being on the same page and having a united front, and keeping an eye on the prize, kids can not only survive uncomfortable and mean situations but thrive. Candace’s loyalty is worth noting and she walked away with an additional skill of assertiveness.
And as it turns out, when my friend respectfully shared her concerns with some of the other parents, they were experiencing similar things with their children. We all need a strategy. We all need other trusted adults.
Hopefully, Candace and her family are enjoying some summer down time. Hope you are, too!
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