We recently had a friend over for a play date with my daughters.
I gave the girls some space to play but quietly stayed near to make sure conversations were kind and appropriate.
About 23 minutes into one of my girls giving a full account of three “Mr. Bean” episodes back to back without taking a breath, I had an epiphany.
I’ve always preached to my daughters the importance of including others and playing with everyone, but maybe I need to work on the other side of things as well.
Are my children being “includable”? Are they being the type of human that others would enjoy inviting to join them?
Of course, I want my kids, AND MYSELF, to be kind to everyone, but at some point we should also take responsibility for the ways we can help others want to include us.
Here’s some of the big issues I’ve noticed that I am trying to help my kiddos work on so that others are more open to including them:
You’re not perfect. You are not good at everything. That’s okay, no one is! Embrace and enjoy the unique person you are and don’t feel less than because you are different in some ways and not good at some things. The world needs you to be you for the special, unique gifts you offer.
Kids who aren’t confident are either trying too hard to fit in — which usually is annoying — or are rejecting all offers to be included because they feel they aren’t worthy.
It’s also a problem because if our kids feel self conscious they may perceive things in a negative way that aren’t even about them. I remember as a kid feeling comfortable about the very large size of my feet. If anything about feet, or even specifically foot size, ever came up, it never bothered me in the least, and I could even laugh about the fact that my feet are extra long.
On the other hand, I often felt insecure about my weight. Usually others didn’t notice or care about my weight, but because I felt sensitive about it, I perceived a lot of negative things to be because of my weight — many of which I now realize had nothing to do with that. A lot of times we inadvertently draw attention to whatever it is we fear and are actually to blame for causing whatever we fear to happen.
I want to help my kids learn who they are and be willing to mature and improve themselves, but be at peace with the deep parts that make them who they are.
Seriously kid, if you want people to enjoy playing with you, you have to let them talk, too. Conversation means back and forth, not you giving a monologue.
Don’t be a know it all.
Let your friends tell you new stuff. Be comfortable that people know things you don’t and be willing to listen and learn. It’s hard to enjoy spending time with someone who thinks they are an expert on everything.
I’m working with my kids on this by letting them teach each other something new. It’s good practice to be able to teach others, but also very important that they are able to learn from others.
Let Others Have Ideas
It’s not fun when only one person gets to have all the ideas. Take turns having ideas about what you’re going to play together. COMPROMISE.
One thing I try to do to help my kids with this is to play in time increments. One person gets to choose what to play for 10-15 minutes and then the next and the next. This way everyone gets a shot being the leader and gets to do what they enjoy.
Give People Space
Try to recognize when other people have a connection and let them enjoy it without trying to tag along constantly.
Some people get along better with other people, and it’s not because you aren’t loved or great.
Don’t feel like everyone has to like you the most and want to include you on everything. If some people get along especially well or have some strong common interest, it’s okay to let them enjoy spending time together without you sometimes.
My oldest daughter has a dear friend she has deep connection with. It’s hard because my other girls love her too and want to constantly be included.
However, I’m trying to help my younger girls understand that sometimes it’s kind for us to give their sister and her friend some time to just play together because their personalities and interest give them a special friendship. Of course their sibling relationship is WAY more important to me, so I also make sure everyone plays together a lot of the time, but it’s also good practice to sometimes give people space.
I want my kids not to make every relationship all about them. If they know two kids love horses and they don’t care about them sometimes, it’s thoughtful to let those friends just enjoy their time talking about or playing horses.
You Are Human
Is there a good reason people aren’t wanting to spend time with you? Do you have a bad habit? Are you bossy or unkind? ARE YOU EATING YOUR BOOGERS AND GROSSING EVERYONE OUT??
If you don’t know, maybe you should ask the reason someone isn’t including you. However, if you respectfully listen and find there is no real reason someone isn’t including you, it’s okay to embrace that her personality may just not enjoy yours, maybe they are overwhelmed by larger groups or maybe he may have a problem.
I want my kids to easily forgive people even when they don’t understand their actions and move on. Why torture yourself trying to hang out with people that don’t want to hang out with you?
I always want to encourage and model for my kids how to lovingly include those others, but I’m trying to not forget also training my kids to be people that are a joy to include.