Nobody Likes Me, Everybody Hates Me: The Top 25 Friendship Problems and How to Solve Them
by Michele Borba EdD
Reviewed by Kathy Drury
Nashua NH USA
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 24 No. 4, July-August 2007, p.181
Most parents hope their children will be confident, empathetic, resilient, and able to resolve conflicts. Few people, however, are born with these skills. Rather, we learn them by spending time with other people. It can be hard to find time for friends in today's world. Busy schedules, electronic diversions, parental concerns about strangers, and a wealth of supervised activities often get in the way.
And, what if rare playtimes consistently result in arguments or hurt feelings? What can you do if you think that your child is too sensitive or not sensitive enough, over-bearing or wishy-washy? How can you help your child learn the skills she needs to "play well with others"? This book offers a clear, systematic plan.
The beginning of Nobody Likes Me, Everybody Hates Me lists some helpful, down-to-earth tips for creating open-ended but supervised playtime for your child. Ideas include forming playgroups, setting up play dates, finding clubs and activities for older children, and ground rules for having other children in your home. Even parents who are nervous about having other people's children in their house can find reassurance here.
The "top 25 problems" mentioned in the book's subtitle range from "bossy" to "bullied," "new kid" to "cliques," and "hot tempered" to "shy." Each problem has its own section with a short list of things your child might do or say if this is an issue she is experiencing, an explanation of what's happening and why, supportive things that you can do and say to your child, a list of tips for the child, and lists of additional resources.
So, let's say your child tends to say things like, "I tried to stay calm, but it was too late!" or "Don't keep telling me I'm going to lose all my friends because of my temper. I just can't help it." If so, the tips for the "hot-tempered" child in chapter 12 might be useful. After listing a few comments like the ones above and some common behaviors, Dr. Borba identifies a number of possible causes. Perhaps your child has always had a quick temper and lacks the skills needed to calm down, or maybe she is trying to fit in with a new, more aggressive group of friends. Maybe she is being bullied, or maybe feels that no one listens until she yells.
In my experience, I've found that it can be hard to really change things until I understand why they're happening. Through this understanding I am able to think of the problem as something that my child and I can work through together, rather than something that my child is doing to me on purpose. This approach is at the heart of Dr. Borba's useful book.
Next, there is a list of ideas for what the adult might say. In this example of the "hot-tempered" child, one suggestion is to help the child recognize her "body temper alarms." For instance, you may have noticed that she tends to grind her teeth or clench her fists right before she yells. If your child can learn to notice these signs before she loses her temper, she'll have a chance to change direction.
The list of things for the adult to do includes a paragraph detailing ideas for demonstrating calm behavior, setting clear limits on your child's behavior, teaching "back off" skills, and limiting aggressive media exposure.
There is also a box with clear, simple tips for the child. For anger, the tips suggest the child "listen" to her body alarms, "stop" when she notices that she is getting angry, "breathe" slowly and deeply to bring down her heart rate, and "separate" by counting to 10, humming a few bars of a song, gazing at the sky, or otherwise backing off from whatever triggered the reaction.
Finally, there's a list a books for the adults, and another list for the child. The book is thorough but not wordy. Each problem is covered in eight to 10 pages, and the descriptions are complete without being overwhelming. There is a nice balance between background information and hands-on suggestions. The concepts fit in well with LLL views on loving guidance, helping the child change her behaviors and accept responsibility for them, without name-calling or punishments.