Speaking up for yourself in kind ways
Episode 10 – Isaac, Age 7.5: Friend is disrespectful
Think About It Questions
- Everyone makes mistakes sometimes. How do you know when your friend’s mistake is something you need to forgive or work through and when it means the end of your friendship?
- Think of a time when you needed to explain to a friend what you were thinking or feeling. What did you say? How did the friend react?
- Why are “I” statements a powerful way to deal with friendship problems? What makes them more effective than a “You” statement? (Hint: How do you think a friend would respond if you talked about a problem by saying “I want…” versus “You always…”?)
- Why do you think it’s sometimes hard for kids to tell friends about what they think, feel, or want? How could NOT telling friends about your thoughts and feelings hurt a friendship?
- Can you think of a situation when NOT telling a friend what you think or feel might be the kind thing to do? For example, if you don’t like your friend’s haircut or outfit, do you need to tell your friend or is it better to keep that opinion to yourself?
Hi, I’m Dr. Eileen Kennedy-Moore, also known as Dr. Friendtastic. I’m an author and clinical psychologist based in Princeton, NJ.
Here’s today’s question:
Hello, my name is Isaac. I’m seven-and-a-half years old. How do you handle a situation when you don't want to play with somebody because they don't respect you or your toys?
Hi, Isaac, I’m so glad you asked this question because I think it’s something a lot of kids wonder about.
If someone is not respecting you or your toys, it’s absolutely understandable that you wouldn’t want to play with that kid! But before you completely write him off, I wonder if it might make sense to see if there’s a way to make things work. Especially if this kid can sometimes be fun and kind, it might be worth trying to get along.
Now, I want to be clear about something: working things out doesn’t mean you should put up with being treated in a disrespectful way. That wouldn’t bring you closer, it would just make you dislike this kid more and more, and then you might do something disrespectful to him! And then he’d be mad at you, so he might do something disrespectful back, and the problem would get even bigger!
You didn’t mention what the kid did that you found disrespectful. Maybe it’s something you could prevent by changing the situation. For example, if he tends to be too rough with one of your toys, maybe you could put that toy away when you know he’s going to be around or before he comes over. Or maybe only play outside with him or only play some games but not other games with him.
It might be useful to try talking to this kid. He can’t know how you feel unless you tell him. He might not realize how upset you are about what he’s doing. You’re assuming he did whatever he did because he doesn’t respect you or your toys, but maybe that’s not true. Maybe he didn’t know or just made a mistake.
You could try using an “I” statement–that’s “I” like me, not “eye” like eyeball–and ask for what you want. This is a very powerful way to manage friendship problems. So, maybe you could try saying something like, “I spent a lot of time arranging my card collection just how I like it. Please keep the cards in the order I put them” or “I like my remote-control car a lot, and I don’t want it to get broken. Please be gentle with it and keep it away from the walls.”
It works better if you tell the other kid what you WANT him to do, rather than what he shouldn’t do. “Please don’t be a jerk” is not useful communication.
He may respond with an excuse like “I was just trying to be funny!” or “It was an accident.” That’s okay, just repeat your point so he knows you mean it. You could say, “I know. I’m asking you to be careful with my stuff from now on.”
You could also decide you just don’t like this kid, and you don’t want to play with him. That’s your choice, but if he’s around a lot–in your class or in your neighborhood–it may be important to try to work things out so you can be around him without feeling disrespected.
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.