Toddler     School Age     Teens    

Child Behavior: Peer rejection, and how you can help your child



Addressing social crisis through the lens of peer rejection

To be rejected by peers is a painful experience for both the children as well as for their parents. 

It’s difficult to keep track of the reports of school shootings or other forms of violence — all perpetrated by adolescents or young men — as they have become all too frequent occurrences in the news recently.

What are the roots of this type of wanton violence that is becoming all too common among the young today?

Warning signs

After last year’s Newtown, Conn., school shooting shocked the nation, I was asked by a local school district to help them identify potential at-risk students. They asked me for the specific warning signs, hoping that if found early could prevent violent school tragedies from reoccurring.

Unfortunately there is no simplistic profile. The reasons why some young people resort to this type of tragic violence are complex and not often easy to pinpoint.

Researchers and professionals have blamed many potential or possible sources of violence and antisocial behavior: availability of guns, violence in movies or the media, faults in the family structure as well as faults in the personality of the perpetrators, and still others feel the schools are at fault.

This month’s column will attempt to address this social crisis through the lens of a different potential catalyst: peer rejection.

Peer rejection

I have known and worked professionally with many troubled children and adolescents, and for many of them peer rejection has been a painful part of their development. Although peer rejection does not cause most young people to get a gun and go on a homicidal rampage, it does seem to be part of the troubled profile for many children and adolescents who exhibit problem, often aggressive, behavior. To be rejected by peers is a painful experience for both the children as well as for their parents.

Importance of peers

Friends provide so much to a child, especially in late childhood and adolescence. Peers provide partners for practicing existing social skills and trying out new ones. Peers contribute to a child’s sense of identity. If no one likes them or wants to play with them, their sense of personal value is diminished.

Peers provide feedback for their behavior, ideas, and they help each other make sense of their lives. Peers teach each other how to resolve conflict appropriately. They learn, if you want someone to play with, you need to learn to share, wait your turn, and be a good listener.

Numerous research studies have also demonstrated that popular children achieve at higher levels in school, have higher self esteem, are happier in school, exhibit few behavior problems and have a better attendance record. It’s noted that this peer interaction should be encouraged to take place in person — not through technology and the many devices and sites that offer pseudo relationships.

Social skills

The single most cited behavior that creates peer rejection is aggression. There are many ways of handling aggression in childhood. Just teaching a child the basic etiquette of starting and maintaining a conversation and teaching listening skills has shown to be helpful.

Practicing conflict resolution by presenting a child hypothetical childhood conflict situations and practicing solving them, as well as teaching a child to see another child’s possible point of view when conflict arises, is another technique that can enhance social skills.

Self-esteem

Peer-rejection will typically diminish self-esteem, however, getting your child involved in an activity that he can find success with can help to reverse the process of diminishing self-esteem.

Peer rejection is a painful part of their lives for some children, and can often have life-long consequences. However, if it is recognized and remediated early it can be corrected and a child can enjoy what all children need to grow up to be competent social adults — friends!

Paul Schwartz, PhD., is a professor of psychology and education at Mount Saint Mary College.

 



Other articles by Paul Schwartz


  • Be curious. Have grit. Read more.

    Dr. Paul Schwartz gives parents the recipe to help kids live up to their potential

    Do you want a successful child? Paul Schwartz gives parents the recipe for success. read more »
  • Talking the talk

    Communicating with your adolescent

    If men are from Mars and women are from Venus, as the author John Gray would have us believe, then adolescents must be from another galaxy altogether – or so it often seems to parents who live with them. Click here to learn how to talk to your teen. read more »
  • Kid's these days

    Why today’s adolescent journey is different from yours

    Dr. Paul Schwartz shares his insights on why parents of adolescents often find themselves asking, “What happened to that little person I knew and understood so well?” read more »
  • Dr. Paul Schwartz's Child Behavior columns:

    Paul Schwartz, Ph.D., is a professor of psychology and education at Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh. He has been writing columns about child behavior for Hudson Valley Parent for more than a decade. You can find them all right here. read more »
  • Child Behavior: Is your child an underachiever?

    Dr. Paul Schwartz examines the different types of child underachievers, what factors contribute to them, and how parents can help. read more »
  • Child Behavior: Adolescents: Legends in their own minds

    Why do adolescents act the way they do?

    How often do we say, “I don’t know how a smart kid like you can do something like that”? Two professionals examine why adolescents act the way they do. read more »
  • Parenthood: Only the strong survive

    How parenting advice has evolved over the decades

    Child behavior expert Paul Schwartz provides a historic backdrop as to how parenting advice has changed over the years. read more »
  • Child Behavior: Are we overscheduling our children?

    Many professionals believe we are doing too much for our children

    Dr. Paul Schwartz examines whether today's parents are structuring a barrage of activities for their children with independent play being sacrificed, or doing things for their children that their children should be doing for themselves. read more »
  • Child Behavior: The importance of friendship

    The benefits of bonding at every age

    Dr. Paul D. Schwartz examines the benefits of friendships at every age. read more »
  • Are emotional children smarter?

    Dr. Paul Schwartz examines emotions and intelligence

    In his monthly column, Child Behavior, Dr. Paul Schwartz examines the limitations of the traditional IQ test and the subsequent rise in popularity of tests for emotional intelligence to predict a child's competence and potential for success. read more »