Ep. 60 – Henry, Age 8: Friends invited but not him

Dealing with being excluded

Kids Ask Dr. Friendtastic
Kids Ask Dr. Friendtastic
Ep. 60 – Henry, Age 8: Friends invited but not him


Think About It Questions

  • Why do you think kids sometimes exclude other kids?
  • Have you ever felt excluded? What happened? How did you respond?
  • Why is it not a good idea to beg or bribe another kid to include you?
  • What do you think of the rule “You can’t say someone can’t play”? Are there any situations where it’s OK to exclude someone? What could you do if someone was wrecking the game, being too rough, or refusing to follow the rules? How could you handle it if lots of kids wanted to play a game that’s only for a few people
  • Being “the boss” can be fun and exciting. What could someone do to be a “good boss” or a true leader? (Hint: What could a leader do or not do to make the people who are getting directions feel good?)


Hi there! I’m Dr. Eileen Kennedy-Moore, also known as Dr. Friendtastic. I’m an author and clinical psychologist based in Princeton, NJ.

Let’s listen to today’s question:

Hello, I am Henry, and I’m 8. A kid invited my friends to play a game with him but he won't let me play. What should I do?

Hi, Henry. That sounds like a difficult situation! I’m guessing you felt angry and hurt when this kid invited your friends to play but not you. You might also have felt abandoned when your friends left you behind!

To try to prevent anyone from getting excluded, some schools have a rule that “You can’t say someone can’t play.” If your school has that rule, it might help to remind this kid about it. Or it might not, because he could either refuse to follow the rule or give you a bad role, like “Okay, you can play, but you have to be the garbage collector!” Not so fun.

Another option is to talk to your friends about the situation when no one else is around. Start by showing your friends that you understand their point of view. You could say, “I get why you want to play the new game with that kid. It seems fun.” Then tell your friends how you feel. So, you might say, “At the same time, I feel left out when you both play with him, without me.” Then ask for what you want, maybe by saying, “Next time, could you tell him you want me to play, too?” Maybe your friends would be willing to do that, and maybe the other kid would listen, or maybe not, but it could be worth a try.

Whenever there’s a conflict, it’s always worth thinking about how we might have contributed to it, even if it was by accident. Ask yourself, “Is there some reason this kid might have for not wanting me to play?” There may not be, but if you had a bad interaction before, it might be worth apologizing or promising him you won’t do whatever it was again.

But my best guess of what’s going on here is that this kid is experimenting with social power. He’s trying out the role of being in charge, so he made up the game, and he wants to decide who does or doesn’t get to play because he likes the idea of being the boss.

But here’s the thing: He’s NOT the boss. He’s a kid, just like you.

Now notice that I did NOT suggest that you beg this kid to include you or try to bribe him to let you in the game. Those actions would feed into his role as the boss of everything. We don’t want to do that.

Maybe you could insert yourself into the game without asking for his permission. The key is you have to jump in in a way that supports the on-going action rather than disrupting it. Don’t try to take over or change what’s happening right away.

If it’s a game that really does require a certain number of players, maybe you could say, “I’m next, after he goes” or “I’ll play the winner!” then wait your turn.

If it’s a more open-ended game, you could either just start playing or announce a role for yourself. So, if the boys are building something, you could bring extra supplies. If it’s an imagination game, you could watch until you understand the story, then announce something like, “I’m the wizard’s assistant!” or “I’m the third cheetah!” or something that fits what’s going on.

What if the kid still says you can’t play? If you’re helping rather than hurting the game, he’s less likely to do that. But if he does, you could say, “That’s silly. I’m helping!” and keep playing. If he continues to argue, you could calmly remind him, “You’re not the boss.”

Or you might decide it’s not worth arguing with him–because the game isn’t THAT fun–and just shrug and walk away.

You always have the option of playing with someone else, either just for today or longer. If you have a good time with other kids, your friends might eventually decide to join your game.

If that happens, you might be tempted to exclude the kid who excluded you. That’s understandable, but you know what it feels like to be left out. So make the kind choice and don’t do that to anyone else.

This has been Kids Ask Dr. Friendtastic. If you have a question about making and keeping friends that you’d like me to answer, go to DrFriendtastic.com, and click on the podcast tab to see how to submit your question.

You can learn even more about friendship through my funny and practical books for kids: Growing Friendships: A Kids’ Guide to Making and Keeping Friends and Growing Feelings: A Kids’ Guide to Dealing with Emotions About Friends and Other Kids. They’re available through your library or wherever you buy books.

OR find them on your favorite podcast platform!