Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Feedback for a Rule-Obsessed Kid
Our local friends have a 10-year-old son, S, and an 8-year-old daughter, I, who are these amazingly delightful young people. So naturally, we are always hitting our friends up for real life parenting advice. They are often reluctant to give it; and they insist they make a lot of mistakes - great parents and they're very humble, too.
They had us over for dinner last night and this anecdote came up about E, their 10-year-old son S's friend and classmate. (E's little sister happens to be in DS's preschool class at Montessori; small world this Podunkville.) Anyway, they mentioned that E has kind of slowly become this mini Persona Non Grata in S's little 5th grade boys friend clique, because whenever the boys play any sort of game with rules, E freaks out about everyone exactly following them and gets kind of yelly, and not so very fun to be around. Subsequently, S did not want to initially invite E to his recent birthday party, but then S later felt bad about leaving E out ( S = an emotionally intelligent kid with a conscience), thought better of it, and invited E all on his own with no prompting from any of the parents. (Gold star for you, S).
At the party, all of the boys played with Nerf guns around these huge dirt mounds where new homes were being built. It was a great time for all, until E started to loudly disagree about the vaunted rules being broken... blah blah blah bottom line: no one wants to play with E anymore, but no one has yet to actually say anything to E or E's parents about why E isn't quite meshing with the other boys, and why more invites probably won't be forthcoming. Which got me thinking about the giving and the getting of feedback in general.
I wonder if E's parents mistakenly think E's being left out is the result of some kind of quasi-bullying.
If E were my kid, I'd like to think I'd appreciate some honest, caring feedback about E's rule-obsessed behavior at play, and how it's making his friends feel and then respond. That being said, imagine being on the receiving end of that kind of a phone conversation. "Hi, your kid doesn't play well with the others." Ouch, but again, stuff I'd theoretically want to hear.
It sounds to (touchy feely, therapy-lovin') me like E could certainly benefit from a couple of sessions of play therapy that would give him a safe space to test out his ideas about rules. Of course, I'd never have the balls to recommend such a thing. Which is a shame, really. E might never get the constructive feedback that could bring him closer to his peers who actually do like him.