Elementary school age or middle childhood, is generally termed from the age of 6 to 12. Children from this age group are beginning to develop their character at a more mature and concrete operational cognitive level. According to developmental psychologist Jean Piaget (), school-aged children have the ability to mentally classify groups or act on concrete objects in their head. They are also able to find solutions to problems which are not too hypothetical and abstract.
Psychologist Erik Erikson (1868) also claimed that a child at the age of 6 to 12 must master social and academic skills and keep up with their peers or faces inferiority. Inferiority may develop into low self-esteem issues. Children who face inferiority or low self-esteem might develop symptoms of withdrawal or aggression and find ways to compensate by defense mechanism to reaction in reality (Lin, 1997). Children who turn away negative emotions through withdrawal would usually be neglected as they tend to be shy and assertive. Aggressive children tend to be “rejected” as they are submissive and seen as easy to bully. Children from a minority group (e.g. race, social-economic status etc.) or children who are disabled in any way have higher risk of being rejected socially.
The Rejected Child
The children who are socially rejected due to their aggressive behavior tend to remain rejected as they move on (Keenan & Evans, 2009). They lose their chance to socialize with other peers and may develop negative attitudes towards other people. Some of their peers do not always discriminate the rejected child like the others, but they do not want to be left out or mocked at and hence conformed due to peer pressure. Boys face stronger pressure than girls to comply with group behavior (Martin & Ruble, 2010). Some kids who discriminate or have prejudice against the rejected children act as they receive satisfaction and support when bullying and achieve a sense of common identity.
As social rejection usually stables down gradually, it becomes hard for the child to get over (Cillessen & Bukowski, 2000). Rejected children tend to have lower self-esteem; they are more likely to hang out with other socially rejected children. They would then form their own social group and negatively influence one another with anti-social behaviors. They become easily angered and turn hostile to whoever that tries to harm them (Trembley, 2000). They also show little empathy and concern for others, and often feel little guilt and remorse.
As the instructional leader of the school, the principal assist, instruct, plan and implement systems and programs to meet the child’s needs. They have to work closely with the teachers and give advice and updates to parents on the current situation of their child in school. Therefore the principal, teacher and parents should work hand in hand, in every child’s development for a better future.
Teachers can group students with similar personality up to encourage friendship and cohesion among the students. Students can get over rejection a lot easier as they do not have to get into a larger peer group with majority strangers.
The teachers should judge their student’s social skills and find out if they are being socially rejected. The teachers can pay attention to their student’s level of classroom participation. Through careful observation and interview, the teachers can identify victims of peer rejection. The teachers should also carefully distinguish the important figures in the social group and counsel them if needed. With proper education, chances of social rejection in school will be reduced and peers will learn to accept each other better.
The teacher will set and maintain high and positive classroom standards where every student has the same amount of respect and value for one another. They can do so by having a group project with students identifying positive social skills from negative behaviors like bullying. Students will have a clear mind of what negative behaviors are and are educated not behave in that manner. The teachers shall be reminded not to single out negative points of the rejected students, or compare them to others as it might add-on to the peer rejection and unknowingly add-on to the student’s weakness.
The teacher and student’s parents must also remain in contact and update each other on the child’s progress. Both the parent and child should accommodate to each other’s needs. The child would understand their parent’s perception and become more sensitive and independent. When the parents understand the child’s needs, insecurities and fears, they can help the child to overcome them.
When parents realize that their child is a victim of social rejection, they should not overreact. Instead, they should encourage their child to participate in extra-curriculum activities. Participating in extra-curriculum activities like sports, art and hobbies can build up the child’s confidence outside school. Parents can also encourage their kids to ask their classmates or friends over to play together or for sleepovers. The children would learn how to interact among themselves which is very important for their social skills. The children can also identify how to be a good host or guest and behave accordingly. This also develops close-friendship between the child and their friend as they spend more time together and understand them better. When they are being confronted by other kids, they will know how to react and avoid being bullied.
Teachers and Parents Intervention
Once, the teachers to found out if there is any kids who are rejected among their peers in class, they will rearrange their seating locations so that it is easier for the child to participate in class and to monitor them.
When setting up group projects, the teacher should appoint the rejected child with more responsibly than the other children. This would allow the rejected child to feel valued as they are entrusted by a person of authority, responsibility of the group and lies in their hands. The teacher can also take the opportunity to encourage the students to help one and other and not to seek help from the teacher. The children would learn to work as a group and foster a good relationship. The children are also encouraged to start a conversation or take turns during a conversation.
After school, the teacher would conduct extra-curriculum activities for all the rejected children that were identified and spend more time with them. The parents of the child are also invited to join so that the parents can also understand what their children is going through and how the teachers are helping them. Both parents and teachers should teach or have one-on-one coaching sessions with the children. The child will learn how to take turns, share and abide by the rules of any event. The child should also be taught the ways to cope with teasing by their peers.
During a child’s development phrases, parents, teachers and the child’s peers are very important roles that would influence the child. With positive and authoritative parents, children can recover from peer rejection and build up their self-esteem. Parents are also one of the best listening ear for the child. If the teacher or parent is unable to encourage the child, they should consult the school psychologist or counselor for more strategies that could help the child cope with social peer rejection.