Figuring out whose opinion matters to you
Episode 35 – Ryan, Age 11: Peers put down his interests
Think About It Questions
- Whose opinion matters to you? In other words, who are the special people in your life that you want to think well of you? (Hint: These are people who care about you!)
- Have you ever been in a situation like Ryan, where someone said something mean about your efforts? What did they say? Why do you think they said that? How did you respond?
- Ryan has been thinking about his classmate’s mean comments for months. What does Dr. Friendtastic mean when she tells him, “Don’t give this kid that much power?”
- Why do you think it’s not worth arguing or trying to defend yourself when someone whose opinion doesn’t matter to you says something mean?
- What would you say to comfort a friend who got booed or heard mean comments about their efforts?
- Dr. Friendtastic says, “You can’t please everyone.” She can’t, either! Why is it NOT a good idea to try to please everyone?
Welcome. I’m Dr. Eileen Kennedy-Moore, also known as Dr. Friendtastic. I’m an author and clinical psychologist based in Princeton, NJ.
Let’s hear today’s question:
Hi, Dr. Friendtastic. My name is Ryan. I am 11-years old. Here's my question: What do you do when peers at school put down your interests? Once, at my Christmas concert in school, some student booed my hard work and my song. And another time, I was doing a science presentation about owls and he booed again and also said bad words and punched my example owl. If I were the kid holding the emoji, I would be holding the offended, angry, and upset, and discouraged emoji.
Hi, Ryan. First I have to say, I am so impressed by your emotional vocabulary. Offended, angry, upset, discouraged…these are all painful feelings, and I’m sorry to hear you’ve been feeling that way, but I think it’s wonderful that you’re able to describe your experience so well! When we can name our emotions specifically–instead of just thinking, “I feel bad”–it helps us understand them more clearly, which makes it easier to cope with them.
But let’s get back to your situation. This classmate is clearly doing rude and disrespectful things. Booing at your performance…punching your example owl…that’s not kind.
We can try to imagine why he might be acting this way. Is he trying to feel powerful by getting a big reaction from you? Is he trying to impress some other kids by showing that he’s not like you? Is he jealous because your project was cooler than his? Does he think it’s funny to do something inappropriate? Is he the kind of kid who’s impulsive and has trouble reigning in his behavior? Is this a clumsy way to try to get you to pay attention to him? I don’t know the answers to these questions, but maybe you do. If you can figure out his intentions based on your past interactions or what you know about him, it could guide how you respond.
Now, if he’s wrecking your project, you need to get an adult involved, but I want to focus on your question about what to do when someone puts down your interests.
Clearly, his comments stuck with you, because they’re still bugging you many months later. What I’d like to say to you is: Don’t give this kid that much power.
You may have heard someone say, “You shouldn’t care what other people think!” I don’t agree with that. Only mean people don’t care what anyone thinks. A more useful thought is “Whose opinion matters to you?”
I think performing in a show at school and creating a science project about owls are very cool things to do! I bet your teachers and family do, too! I bet there are also other kids at your school who like performing and owls. Those are your people!
So, when someone puts down your interests, but they’re not someone whose opinion matters to you, my suggestion is: just shrug. You don’t have to argue or convince them or defend yourself. You might say, in a bored tone of voice, “Think what you like” or “That’s YOUR opinion” or you might say nothing at all because that person’s opinion is not important to you.
You can’t please everyone. This is something I have to deal with all the time, as a writer. Lots of people like my books, and articles, and podcast, but some people don’t. That’s okay. I’m not writing for them.
We can’t let the people who are being negative and saying “boo” hold us back from doing what matters to us. If you focus on doing the things that you find interesting, meaningful, and fun you’re likely to find others who also enjoy doing them. And that could be the basis of some great friendships.
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.
And be sure to check out my funny and practical books for kids about friendship: Growing Friendships: A Kids’ Guide to Making and Keeping Friends, and my new book, 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.
keywords: peers put down interests, opinions, teasing, interests