Q: My 9-year-old-daughter has been having conflicts with the other girls on the block and it’s become a major issue. It seems that certain girls get into their own exclusive clique every so often, and my daughter isn’t included in the group. Sometimes they are “kind” enough to include her, but it’s pretty pathetic that she has to rely on their good graces. I think that the girls pick up on how desperate my daughter is to make friends, and that desperation makes her appear like a rachmanus.
If my daughter makes comments to them on how she feels left out, they kind of shrug their shoulders; some even smirk behind her back. It’s almost like the more she wants to be part of the group, the more they pull away. They aren’t bullying her — just ignoring her.
I could speak to these girls’ mothers, my neighbors, but I don’t think that trying to force them to let my daughter be part of the group would help things. I’m aware that my daughter can be kvetchy and annoying at times, and I can see why they’re not running to be her friend.
If you tell me to import other friends who don’t live too far away, we’ve thought of that already. A classmate can come from time to time, but it’s not a solution on a daily basis.
As the summer approaches there will surely be more time spent playing on the street and this problem will probably become more intense. Any ideas on how to deal with this?
A: Part of hashgachah pratis is a person’s physical location — the community, home, and neighbors with whom life is shared. Our daily davening where we ask to be guarded from a “bad neighbor” emphasizes the impact that neighbors can have on our lives.
But the girls on your block are not to be perceived as “bad” — but this is probably how your daughter often experiences them from her vantage point.
If we focus on any individual, or group of people, as being the “other,” of “always being mean,” we only exacerbate an already difficult situation. If we focus only on what others are doing, we might well create feelings of helplessness. Wallowing in self-pity is an accurate way to describe this.
After being a compassionate listener for one’s child, a parent needs to concentrate on constructive ways to work with the situation. Sometimes it is siblings’ comments about this child’s lack of social skills that causes the problems — which must not be discussed in a public forum, but rather in a discreet and private manner.
A parent can approach the issue in a non-condescending way: “I’m not saying that Shani is an expert, but I’m just curious. Is it true that sometimes you might be very excited about something, and another person might think that you’re showing off? I’m sure that you didn’t mean it that way.”
This way of communicating — the cushion method — starts with the word “curious” (a non-judgmental stance), cushioning your upcoming statements. You then state the matter at hand and end by again cushioning the idea with supportive words.
Keep in mind how much a person’s general body language can convey how they feel about themselves. How does your daughter want to portray herself to the world? Simply looking in the mirror and focusing on posture and appropriate facial expressions can help her “rachmanus” status diminish.
Seeing herself in another light and role-playing appropriate social “ice-breakers” (ways to start, continue and end conversations) could be of great help to your daughter. Most likely, her limited social skills are apparent to you in other social situations.
You shouldn’t focus on a sibling’s observations, which can build sibling resentment. However, there are times when your daughter’s exact annoying behavior needs to be looked at honestly, as it will affect her in the future.
What is it that is annoying about her? A neighborhood is a microcosm of the world, and how we will interact with others throughout our lives begins with family and neighbors. Each childhood social situation is an opportunity to work to improve upon our inborn tendencies and better our interactions with others. B’hatzlachah!