Nobody wants to be my friend

What could be more heart wrenching than when your child comes to you and says nobody wants to be their friend. When this became an ongoing theme of my six year old, I decided to call the teacher and find out what was happening that was making him feel this way.

The teacher sounded incredulous. She said that if there was one child with whom everybody I the class wanted to be friendly with it was him. Here was an excellent example of how a child’s perceptions and beliefs are ruled by their fantasy of reality rather than the objective truth.

I decided that the only way to find out the reality was to go to the school and surreptitiously observe what he was experiencing. By way of background, here was a child that the teacher stopped asking to serve the mid-morning snack, because he would be on his way with the snack tray, see a poster on the wall that caught his interest and stand there and read, tray in hand while the class waited for their snack.

I positioned myself strategically to conduct my observation just near the end of ring time and the beginning of break. The teacher ended her program; let the children run outside while my son, the world forever calling him, busied himself with some exploration in the classroom.

When he was finished, some ten minutes into break, he meandered outside, and tried to connect with friends now busy at play.

Anyone who believes that children don’t like rules and structure should watch a group of children at play. They spend most of the game making the rules, and then eventually get started only to have to end the game to go back to the classroom.

When my son reached his friends, they were at the stage where the rules were made and the game had begun. They were not willing to stop the game and to start the process over to incorporate an newcomer. This was not personal; it was just the way of children at play.

In relationships, we can all relate the concept of being misunderstood, misrepresented or ourselves getting it wrong. I experience the intense frustration as a father and a psychologist when I can see that something is bothering one of my children and they will not speak to me about it. When they eventually decide to, I am pained by the fact that they thought I would react in an unconstructive manner to their problem, when all I want to do and do in reality is support and reassure them.

What we can learn from these examples is that what we are managing in our relationships is not only peoples perceptions of who we are, their beliefs about our motives and intentions but also their fantasies of who we are.

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