When My Kid Doesn’t Like Your Kid

By Mike Bechtle
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email
Three ways to help your child navigate challenging peer relationships.

“I’m sorry to call,” Lucy’s mom said, “but your daughter and her friends seem to be excluding Lucy from their activities. Could you please ask Sara if they could include Lucy?”

The mother’s request made my wife and me uncomfortable. It was an honest plea from a parent whose 12-year-old felt rejected. But to us, it felt like she was accusing our daughter of being exclusive. It also felt like a parenting issue — our kid was doing something that hurt someone else, and we needed to stop it.

No parent wants their kid to be hurt or to hurt others. But it’s a fact of life that we’re naturally more drawn to some people than others. So how do we teach our kids to respond to peers who aren’t their “besties” or who rub them the wrong way? Scripture tells us to love one another. Does that mean we also need to like one another?

Respect is Key

Most of us are naturally drawn to those with whom we share common interests and values. And kids are no different. When my third-grader talks about someone he doesn’t like, I can’t force him to change his mind. But I can teach him to treat that person in a way that shows respect.

Social skills are learned, and the lessons we teach our children now can last a lifetime. Here are three suggestions to help shape our children’s social GPS:

Listen with respect

When we notice attitudes in our kids that need revision, it’s natural to just tell them what to do. But sometimes, hasty advice shuts down the conversation. Logic doesn’t change feelings, but listening can.

When our kids express dislike for someone, we can ask open-ended questions:

What is it about Jacob that you don’t like?
What does he say or do that bothers you?
How does that make you feel?
How do you think God wants you to respond?

By listening carefully to the answers before we offer advice, we can help our children think through the deeper issues at play. Then, we can identify with their feelings: “It sounds like you’re frustrated when Jacob says hurtful words. That must be really tough.”

During conversations like these, my wife and I were tempted to jump to a solution right away. But we learned to resist blurting out advice. As we listened, our children felt “heard,” and we built trust. Then, the next time they had a people-problem, they were more open to having a conversation with us to help find a solution.

Model respect

When our daughter was young, we taught her to treat others with respect. We assumed she’d hear our instructions and put them into practice. One day, I walked into her room to see her disciplining her dolls. She didn’t speak to them in the respectful way in which we had taught her, but with the harsh words we sometimes used while disciplining her. She may have heard what we said, but she did what we did. Our children watch how we interact with challenging people in our lives. The way we respond is likely how they will respond also.

Play is a great avenue for children to learn relationship skills. When our children were young, we would make their stuffed animals “talk” about another stuffed animal they didn’t like. Then we guided the conversation toward solutions that demonstrated kindness and respect. This exercise allowed our kids to pick up responses they could use in their real-world relationships.

View others with respect

One day, my son and I were trying on ski goggles at a sporting goods store. His had yellow lenses, while mine had blue. I pointed at a jacket across the room and asked, “What color is that jacket?”

“It’s yellow,” he said.

“Nope,” I responded. “It’s blue.”

He thought I was crazy. He was seeing yellow, so he assumed he was correct and I was wrong. We took off our goggles; the jacket was white.

We all see others through our own lenses, and it’s easy to assume that we’re right and the other person is wrong. In reality, they’re just different — and it’s part of God’s design. Our kids learn to respect others when they learn to value their differences. It’s not a matter of who’s right or who’s wrong; it’s seeing them the way God does. Not everyone is going to be our best friend, but we need to see them as a person with value.

When your child is struggling with someone she doesn’t like, ask what others and God like about that child. For example, you might say, “So, Jacob really bugs you. What do you think his friends like about him? What do you think God likes about him?” Follow that up by asking why she thinks Jacob acts the way he does. Then brainstorm some creative ways she can respond when she’s upset with Jacob, but remind your child that she’s responsible for herself, not for the other person.

When Respect Rules

In Matthew 7:12, Jesus proclaimed: “Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them.” For our kids, remembering the Golden Rule is the key to navigating relationships in a way that demonstrates respect. As we help them discover how they like to be treated by others, this becomes the standard for how they treat others.

We told Lucy’s mom we would talk to our daughter, and we did. But we didn’t force Sara into an artificial relationship. We explored her feelings, brainstormed ideas and helped her learn how to treat Lucy with kindness and respect.

Did they become best friends? No. But they did become good friends — and they discovered a valuable relationship in the process.

Dr. Mike Bechtle is a sought-after speaker and the author of People Can’t Drive You Crazy If You Don’t Give Them the Keys and I Wish He Had Come With Instructions.

© 2017 by Mike Bechtle. Used by permission.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email

About the Author

Mike Bechtle

Dr. Mike Bechtle is a writer, public speaker and senior consultant for FranklinCovey. He has authored five books, including Dealing with the Elephant in the Room.

You May Also Like

Thank you [field id="first_name"] for signing up to get the free downloads of the Marrying Well Guides. 

Click the image below to access your guide and learn about the counter-cultural, biblical concepts of intentionality, purity, community and Christian compatibility.

(For best results use IE 8 or higher, Firefox, Chrome or Safari)

To stay up-to-date with the latest from Boundless, sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter.

If you have any comments or questions about the information included in the Guide, please send them to [email protected]

Click here to return to Boundless

Focus on the Family

Thank you for submitting this form. You will hear from us soon. 

The Daily Citizen

The Daily Citizen from Focus on the Family exists to be your most trustworthy news source. Our team of analysts is devoted to giving you timely and relevant analysis of current events and cultural trends – all from a biblical worldview – so that you can be inspired and assured that the information you share with others comes from a reliable source.

Alive to Thrive is a biblical guide to preventing teen suicide. Anyone who interacts with teens can learn how to help prevent suicidal thinking through sound practical and clinical advice, and more importantly, biblical principles that will provide a young person with hope in Christ.

Bring Your Bible to School Day Logo Lockup with the Words Beneath

Every year on Bring Your Bible to School Day, students across the nation celebrate religious freedom and share God’s love with their friends. This event is designed to empower students to express their belief in the truth of God’s Word–and to do so in a respectful way that demonstrates the love of Christ.

Focus on the Family’s® Foster Care and Adoption program focuses on two main areas:

  • Wait No More events, which educate and empower families to help waiting kids in foster care

  • Post-placement resources for foster and adoptive families

Christian Counselors Network

Find Christian Counselors, Marriage & Family Therapists, Psychologists, Social Workers and Psychiatrists near you! Search by location, name or specialty to find professionals in Focus on the Family’s Christian Counselors Network who are eager to assist you.

Boundless is a Focus on the Family community for Christian young adults who want to pursue faith, relationships and adulthood with confidence and joy.

Through reviews, articles and discussions, Plugged In exists to shine a light on the world of popular entertainment while giving you and your family the essential tools you need to understand, navigate and impact the culture in which we live.

Have you been looking for a way to build your child’s faith in a fun and exciting way?
Adventures in Odyssey® audio dramas will do just that. Through original audio stories brought to life by actors who make you feel like part of the experience; these fictional, character-building dramas use storytelling to teach lasting truths.

Focus on the Family’s Hope Restored all-inclusive intensives offer marriage counseling for couples who are facing an extreme crisis in their marriage, and who may even feel they are headed for divorce.