The Circle asked our readers:
What do you say to your child when:
- They are left out or not invited to that birthday party/school dance, etc.?
- They are being consistently bullied by another child?
- They are mocked because of a physical or learning difference?
- They are disliked simply because of their Church membership?
- They have prayed with all their heart and feel as if they have not received an answer?
What do you say to your children when they are left out or not invited to that birthday party/school dance etc.?
This actually happened to my oldest daughter. She was asked out for dates by several young men when she was a freshman and sophomore but since she was not 16 until her junior year, she was not allowed to date until then.
She was the oldest and I was the mom of two younger boys and a much younger daughter. I had no way to realize how much courage it took for those boys to ask anyone out and the fear of rejection teen boys have. But it seemed in our very small school the word got around that she would turn a date down flat. So she just was not asked again. She was cute, very petite and outgoing, friends to everyone and if anyone needed something done, they asked her. So she worked hard on the junior/senior prom two years in a row and was not asked either year. I sat up with her in her senior year as she did those dry sobs that come in your sleep after hours of dedicated crying! My heart broke for her.
The only thing I could say was that she had done the right thing and Heavenly Father loved her even more so for her love of others which had shown because of her selfless service. I know it did not make it any easier for her then. Perhaps it still hurts her now to think of it.
I really did not know what else to say.
When we lived in Florida, a girl in Jessica's primary class made a point of describing, in morbid detail, every fabulously exciting event that would take place at her upcoming 11th birthday party. After nearly 20 minutes of exacting description, she concluded by turning to her and saying, “But you're not invited.”
Once boys became unacceptable playmates (you know, when the opposite sex suddenly comes down with a vile case of “cooties”), Belinda went years without being invited to a party.
When we moved to Orem a new friend promised Alana that she would invite her to her incredible sleep-over party, then didn't. The next week at church everyone was talking happily about what great fun they all had.
Last Sunday at our ward in Eagle Mountain, a girl in Alana's class went on and on about the birthday party Alana hadn't been invited to.
So far Monica (5) and Samson (2) have been spared the Birthday Party Horror Story.
What to do? How do I know? I just try to help my children understand that sometimes children are forgetful, sometimes their parents make the list or limit the number of guests, sometimes the child doesn't communicate with the parent, sometimes children are just plain thoughtless and mean. Life isn't fair. We try to forgive and forget. And we try to use experiences that are hurtful to us to make sure we don't cause someone else the same pain.
On the other hand, when my children have any kind of outing or play date, for example, they make sure not to talk about the event in front of those who may not have been invited. If most of the kids in a class or group are on the guest list all of them are. And we will never pass out invitations in a place where there is anyone who will not be invited. While often we will invite one or two friends on a particular family outing, we never have a party that includes all but one or two members of a group even if that means including someone who isn't terribly nice!
We try to get our children to think through different scenarios and figure out how they would feel. I don't know if these methods have been successful, but I haven't heard reports of my children hurting other's feelings and if I did, we would address the situation directly to the person involved.
What do you say to your child when he/she is mocked because of a physical or learning difference?
We are waiting for this to come full-blown to our young granddaughter who is 5, starting kindergarten this week, and is a dwarf. It has happened to some degree already but school children can be so mean and cruel.
For the most part this is my daughter and son-in-law's domain, but I have had her with me when people stare and laugh and/or run to get someone else to show off the “midget” (that word, by the way, is viewed as completely inappropriate by Little People.) So far she mostly seems oblivious to it all but she has a good image of her own worth. She asked her mom one day why some people were staring at her. My daughter started to answer something and she interrupted to say, “Oh I know, It is because I am so cute!”
This is not an answer in any sense. Just sort of an observation. I have worked with two beautiful, bright young women who are amputees due to bone cancer. One has a prosthesis and is far more functional and mobile than most people I know with two strong legs. The other prefers to use crutches and just pins up the leg of her slacks. She, too, is a bright star in her corporate constellation. A trainer and quality coach in my current position has malformed, underdeveloped hands and arms with virtually no muscle tone. He does everything for himself, including driving, typing, writing and managing the latches, locks, switches, etc. that are all designed for strong, dexterous hands and arms. These people are such consistent contributors and such fun, I can tell you with absolutely no exaggeration that I don't see anything unusual when I look at them now. The only “difference” is they are a lot smarter and cooler than many of their peers, and sought after as friends and colleagues. This is easy to say and I hope I don't sound glib. I'm sure nobody will ever guess the amount of courage it may have taken for these young people to survive whatever cruelty and inconvenience may have been inflicted upon them as kids. But it might be helpful for kids who are chosen for that specific mortal trial to meet people like my friends and recognize that there is nothing too strange, in the nature of things, that makes all people unique. One of my favorite moms in our ward says everyone has a handicap. I think that is the point. I believe this is literally true, and an important part of the “opposition in all things” truism.
What do you say to your child when:
They are left out or not invited to that birthday party/school dance etc.?
The answer to this one depends upon which child this happened to; My oldest child could have been reasoned with; “Perhaps they bought tickets to something, and could only take their very best friends. Are you his best friend? Then did you really want to go?”
My second child could not have handled this if it was a good friend. She would probably have called the parent of the child herself, and asked why she had been left out. If the answer was a good one, “My daughter says you act bossy at parties,” she could then take it, and understand it. If, however, there was no reason, simply an oversight (or only eight invitations in a pack, and our initial is just before “Z”) she would ask if it would be all right with the birthday girl and her parents for her to attend. I would support her in this, because it includes an honest exchange.
What I hate is parents who try to gloss over things, “Oh, that party wouldn't have been fun anyway,” (or worse, “That mean Tommy Joe will be there, and you don't want to be in the same room with him, do you? (thus teaching your child that he or she is better than someone else a great start for teaching prejudice to an impressionable child)) or try to make up for it, “Daddy and I will take you out to MacDonald's, okay, Sugarplum?”
The important thing: Why was your child left out? Is he/she a brat? Are they being left out of more and more activities? Why? It may be time to take an honest look at your own kids. They may need medical, psychiatric, or behavioral help.
They are being consistently bullied by another child?
This is a very serious problem where I live (98.8 % LDS, only 2% non-white). Tell a “good” parent their child is misbehaving, and you may be astounded at the result. I've heard parents lie for their children. One man told me, “It couldn't have been Cody who put the bag of dog poo on your front porch and set it on fire ten minutes ago. He is sitting here with me right now, where he has been all day, and his wrist is broken.” That is an actual quote (except the name) and I saw the kid with my own eyes! That was two years ago. Now “Cody” is spending six months in juvenile hall, because Daddy always covered for him.
When I hear of any child being bullied, I find out who, where, and when it usually happens, and I park my van nearby and wait. I videotape and record the sound of everything that happens. Kids will almost always admit things when caught, but parents can't seem to believe their little darlings ever do anything wrong. A tape makes it impossible for them to deny what they see. Even then, parents sometimes try to downplay or cover a bullying kid. I can't tell you how often I've heard, “Oh, boys will be boys!” I tell them to look at Columbine High School, and ask them if they really want their “boys” to keep it up.
This reader is a professional newswoman. And thinking back, there were a few times I might not have minded having a few reels of evidence to support my kid ?s stories when they were the plaintiffs and/or innocent defendants.