Bad chemistry – teaching my kid to deal with people who don’t like him

Reaction of two people whose personal space ar...

Reaction of two people whose personal space are in conflict. See also (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

M came home from a recent visit to another child’s house, upset about something that had happened between them.  Turns out the child, who M had not previously spent a lot of time with outside of daycare, revealed that he is friends with B.  I don’t know the details, but B and M have a history and M does not like him at all.  M expressed his disapproval  about his friend’s relationship with B.  Didn’t go over very well – the other child locked M out of his house.

We agreed that locking someone out of your house, especially when the other person is visiting, is not very nice.  But sometimes, as I explained to M, it’s best to keep your opinions to yourself.  Whatever happened to cause M to dislike B happened several years ago.  Since they don’t go to the same school or share the same hobbies, they have little or no contact with each other.  We told M that he had no right to get upset with someone else for being friend’s with B. Moreover, whatever burr he had in his saddle about B, he should just let it go.

Flash forward to a couple of days later… I get a call from the day camp saying that M has had a minor conflict with another child.  Turns out B’s brother was also at the day camp and he and M encountered each other during the day. For whatever reason, a friend of the B’s brother started kicking M. Then the brother got involved.  Apparently, he was upset about M having insulted their dad about 3 or 4 years ago – these kids have memories like elephants. M defended himself with a stick and got mouthy with a counselor when she tried to separate him from the stick. No one was hurt and M spent some time in the office with his favourite counselor.

Like lots of kids with ADHD, interpersonal relationships are often challenging for M.  He doesn’t always get social cues – I’ve seen other kids backing away from him as M keeps on talking. He often gets too close to people by invading their personal space. We know the school is doing their best to help M improve his social skills. But what to do in this situation, when another child seems to be holding a grudge against M and continues to bug hi? Plus, he’s getting his brother and other kids involved in carrying out his “vendetta.”

The sensible parenting approach – encouraging M to let go of whatever was between he and B – wasn’t going to work in this case.  We suggested to M that he should just stay away from B’s brother at camp and if the child insisted on engaging with him, M should run to the nearest counselor. He did cross paths with the brother during the course of the week, but the second time around, they got along.

We’ve all been in this situation:  having to deal with someone who just doesn’t like us. It doesn’t feel very nice, but it’s part of life. maybe we did something, inadvertently or deliberately, to get up the other person’s nose. Sometimes, it’s just bad chemistry – no matter what we do, the other person just doesn’t like the “cut of our jib.”  We aren’t going to like everyone and vice versa. In these situations, the best advice is usually to walk away or avoid the person as much as possible. It is much harder to do if the other person (or their proxy) gets in your grill whenever you see them.

I decided in this case to be as honest with M as I could. I told him that some people are just difficult (I think I used the word “pinhead”. We can’t control their behaviour, but we have to manage ours. Engaging B or his brother and various minions is not productive. In these sorts of situations, walking away really is the best policy. This may also require ignoring what the other person is saying. Neither of these strategies is easy for a 10-year old who struggles with relationships. Dealing with people who don’t like us is hard. But, as I explained to M, it’s a skill we all have to learn.

I’m sure B is a perfectly nice kid. I just hope M gets through the summer without running into him



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