Helping Kids Be Less Likely to Be Rejected

by | Jan 31, 2016 | Friendship and Social Competence

All children are turned down by friends–even the most popular kids! Researchers found in a study of second and third graders that 26 percent of the time, even the most well-liked children in the class were told they couldn’t join groups already playing.But oh the pain of knowing your child is left-out! 

Do tell your child before he attempts to join a group: “Everyone gets turned down now and then so if a group tells you “no”, accept it and find another group. Don’t argue, beg, cry, or plead to be part of the group; those behaviors turn kids off even more. Just move on and try again.”

But there are also friendship-making skills we can teach our children to help them now only make friends but also be rejected less. Three of these skills are especially easy to teach kids and once learned they will use them in every arena of their lives to boost their social competence. Best yet, you can start boosting your child’s social competence as a toddler and continue even as a young adult. Remember, learning any new skill takes practice–lots and lots of practice-until the child can finally do it alone without your guidance. So hang in there!

3 Ways to Help Kids Learn to Encourage Others

Dr. William Hartup, from the University of Minnesota, found through extensive observations that the most well-liked children often praise, cooperate, and encourage others. Children who didn’t cooperate or who ridiculed, ignored or put down others are most likely to be disliked by classmates.

Kids just like to be around kids who accept them and build them up. And that’s information our kids need to hear. Here’s three quick ways to help your children learn the importance of encouraging others.

1. Make a List of Encouragers

Researchers have also discovered that there are certain skills some kids use that help them be less likely to be picked on. And because these kids turned these skills into a habit – repeatedly using these practices on their own without adult reminders), they are not only rejected more but also more popular with kids.

Tell your child one of the secrets of people who get along is that they frequently encourage others. Point out when NFL players give each other hugs or when those Lakers give “High Fives” to their teammates.

Then brainstorm a list of supportive statements that build others up such as: 

“Great idea!, Super!, Nice try!, Good shot!, Good answer!, Great game! Keep it up! Wow”

Now post the list and say them frequently so your kids will “catch them” and start using them with their peers.

Most important: make sure you model those encouragers at home so your kids have an example to copy. If your kids are in any group activity (playdate to and AYSO soccer game), remind them to encourage their playmate or teammates).

You’ll need to keep those reminders going until your child can use this skill on his own.

2. Teach the ‘Two Praise Rule”

Anytime your child is off to a group activity–a  team game, a scout meeting, a friend’s house or even school–remind him to praise the other kids at   least two times. In our house we call it the “Two Praise Rule.” The number just is a simple way of helping my kids remember the importance of praising others.

My girlfriend used this rule in her home to raise her daughters. Judy decided way early that she wanted her daughters to turn out to be friendly and kind and started this rule when her daughters were three. When young these girls were popular, friendly and well-manners. They have also grown into three kind-hearted young women and I swear it is because their mother was so intentional in how she chose to raise them.

3. Practice Encouraging Others

A mom in Colorado Springs shared an easy way she increases praising in her home: She purchased a little ornamental magnet for each family member, and stuck them on her refrigerator with pencils and paper nearby.

Family members were encouraged to write notes complimenting one another for deserving deeds and clip it to their personalized magnet:

Bill, thanks for cleaning your room. It looks great!” or “Andy, good luck at your game!”

The mom said that her home in no time became a more encouraging place as everyone practiced praising.   Those are three simple ideas utilize William Hartup’s great research.

Just remember that kids learn new skills best by practicing, practicing, and practicing. So find daily opportunities to help your child try out those skills until he can confidently use them on his own.

(By the way, it turns out well-liked kids are also courteous and use manners. YES!! There’s an easy skill to boost every day and every night in your home starting at the Family Dinner Hour).


Dr. Michele Borba

Follow me on twitter @MicheleBorba or on my blog Dr. Borba’s Reality Check. My new book, UnSelfie, is an action-packed guide to help parents raise empathetic, kind, courageous children in a plugged-in, individualistic, me-me-me world