Being excluded from games and parties is a painful experience for children. In most cases, exclusion is considered to be a form of bullying. Children who are somehow different are the ones that are most likely to experience exclusion. Disabilities and quirks like stutters or limps are a prime source of weakness for aggressors to fixate on and use to torment their victims. Accents, poor social class, or learning disabilities have also been consistently cited as attributes belonging to “out group” kids. The problem of bullying has become so dire that people across the nation—and across the globe—are stepping up to promote compassion and acceptance. We hope that with this increased awareness we can end exclusion born of misconception and cruelty. The lingering problem is this: What do we do when exclusion is warranted?
There are two sides to every story. In most cases exclusions are mean-spirited and unjustified. However, there are always exceptions to every rule. Sometimes children’s reasons for avoiding or excluding another child are justifiable. The question then poised to parents is how to handle a situation where a child seemingly acts like a bully when, in fact, they are merely attempting to avoid further problems.
It is absolutely important for parents to listen to their children. Unless adults are willing to keep an open mind and listen to what their children have to say, then youngsters will not seek adult advice or help in times of crisis. Parents who launch into tirades before learning the whole truth of the matter alienate their children and leave long lasting mental and emotional wounds. Circumstances are not black and white. Therefore, exclusion is not always a display of aggression. In fact, sometimes it is a means of protection. Instead of immediately condemning someone accused of exclusive behavior, calmly talk to the child and ask them why they behaved in such a way.
Many times if exclusion is justified it is because the excluded party was the initial aggressor. Children who prefer to play peacefully with others will not likely favor someone who causes conflicts and incites arguments. If children are made to feel afraid of another person then avoidance and exclusion are seen as the easiest and most effective ways to escape from stressful situations. If a child explains that they excluded an aggressor then it is not fair to criticize their actions. No one should have to be placed in a situation that they perceive as threatening or dangerous. Adults largely practice exclusive behavior in the face of scenarios and people who we find somehow objectionable. We strive to stay away from people who act menacing and even have prison systems in place to remove repeat offenders from mainstream society. We would not like to be forced to spend time with someone who frightens or intimidates us, so why should we refuse to extend that same mercy to children?
Parents of an excluded child should make an effort to figure out why their child has been excluded. In cases like these it is important to talk to your child and discuss their experiences with the excluders. Where they once friendly? Was there an altercation? Can they think of any reason why the others would exclude them?
Children are intelligent and both excluded and excluder might very well try to twist the story in order to make themselves out to be the victim and thereby avoid repercussions. The role of parents is to listen to both sides of the story and consider the facts. Should there be a push for inclusion or is the exclusion justified? Would the kids spending time together be beneficial or not? Seeking answers to these questions should be the focal point behind each decision and, if possible, the parents of each party should try to discuss the situation with one another as well.
Overall, ending exclusion issues comes down to communicating the importance of manners to children. It should be known what the hurt of excluding someone can cause, but it should also be known what behaviors are likely to result in being excluded. Parents who homeschool tend to place their children in many extracurricular activities where they can meet and befriend peers. Hence, just because a child is homeschooled does not mean that they are any less likely to encounter the same social pitfalls growing up that their school going peers do. Exclusive behavior can happen whenever groups of children are together and it is up to the surrounding adults to step in if this behavior remains unsolved amongst the children and causes further conflicts.
Many times instances of exclusion are due to purely vindictive purposes such as jealously, clichés, or other socially dominating or aggression issues on the part of the excluder. However, occasionally exclusions are a safety tactic which should not go ignored. Chances are if your child is fearful enough of someone to avoid them then there is a firm reason behind those actions that parents should be made aware of. Only by listening to the reasoning behind actions can we learn how to better handle the situations that life thrusts upon us.