Children’s social status in school:
By about second grade, children start to become acutely interested in each other. They start to organize games which involve more than one other child. They depend upon each other for fun and games, begin to talk about and evaluate each other. This is when a child's begins to have a "reputation" with peers.
Some friendless children have a negative reputation. They may not be aware of it, since few children talk to them. The only way it is communicated by the teasing of a few. But ask any other child at school and she/he will give clear reasons for the bad reputation. Once a negative reputation takes hold, the other children remember the negative things a child has done but, are unaware or disbelieve appropriate things the same child has also done. If the child with a negative reputation were immediately to stop all negative behavior and begin to act with social skill, other children would not notice or believe it right away.
One "quick fix" might be to change the child's school. This may work if the child has identified his negative behavior and is able to change most of it. Most likely a child rejected in one school because of social ineptness will be rejected in the next school. Another "quick fix" might be to try to arrange play dates with children at school. Again, if the child doesn't know any better and is left to his/her own devices, this will not help either.
Measuring social status at school:
Children in an elementary school classroom are provided with a class roster and a picture of each child in the class. While looking at this roster and picture, they are asked to list the three other children that they would most like to play with and the three they would least like to play with. The psychologists count how often each child on the roster is listed by another as "most liked" and "least liked." These tabulations result in four categories of social status:
Between 10% and 20% of school-aged children are actively rejected by their classmates. Being rejected by peers is as persistent across the years as a child's IQ. Psychologists have returned several years later and repeated these evaluations on the same children. They find that most of the children who were Rejected before remain Rejected years later.
How to effectively treat social problems:
Our program focuses on what to do in key social situations, rather than the mistakes children make. Evidence-based social skills treatment (ones demonstrated to work):
The skills that should be taught include:
My book "Children's Friendship Training" is a therapist manual for how to run such groups.
How to handle being teased:
Teasing (70% of all victimization) - is defined as disparaging remarks directed to another child. Younger boys tease primarily by name-calling. Older boys tease by disparaging the victim or the victim's family. The dominant motivation reported by perpetrators of teasing is their pleasure at the discomfort of the victim. Well-liked kids get less teasing. Teasing is meant to be degrading and sometimes the perpetrators magnify this by teasing in front of spectators. Ignoring or walking away can be doubly embarrassing in front of spectators.
Studies show that children who are onlookers see a humorous response by the victim as the most effective response to teasing and tend to attribute more social skill to the child who can use this. Coming back with a different snappy reply for each tease may actually embarrass the perpetrator (the victim will only need 2 or 3). Teasing back will not do this. The most effective way of decreasing teasing is to show the perpetrator that it doesn't bother you by not teasing back but making fun of the tease (My "Good Friends.." book has a chapter on this you can read with your child). Several stock replies like "Tell me when you get to the funny part" and "so what?" and "I heard that one in first grade" said with an indifferent tone of voice (boys) or an "attitude" (girls) are usually effective. This may turn the tease from an embarrassing situation into an opportunity to be humorous and have some fun at no one's direct expense.
Your child is more likely to use a well-rehearsed response in a tight situation than to have to think up something on the spot. So practice with your child may help.
Parents may make it difficult for their child to respond appropriately to teasing by having them "defend the family honor" or may focus on the child’s feelings about being teased (and may suggest, "Just tell her that it hurts your feelings when she says mean things to you"). This tends to validate the teaser (he really is hurting you, you are quite vulnerable) and has the victim focus on the hurt rather than an effective response (a big mistake).
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