• Other Friendship Advice

My 10-year-old son has no friends

Published: January 21, 2015 | By | 6 Replies Continue Reading
A mom asks how to help her 10-year-old son get along with schoolmates.



My 10-year-old son is sociable, outgoing and not shy, but he never seems to fit in. He’s often the last chosen for teams, even though he’s quite sporty and academic.

He always seems to be ”the whipping boy.” For instance when they’re playing soccer, if some of them kick the ball over the fence, it’s seen as funny but when he’s done the same, it’s “you’ve ruined the game.”

Perhaps, he tries too hard to fit in and can be quite emotional when challenged (e.g. first temper, then tears.) I’m happy he defends himself but it makes him miserable. It’s a small school and it seems to have gotten worse over time.

I’ve tried to encourage him to play with the less “popular” boys but he seems to have fewer interests in common with them, and as their friendship groups have been long established some of them are standoffish.

He’s upset most days when he comes home from school about one incident or another. I’ve spoken to his teacher on a couple of occasions and although he’s sympathetic, he’s offered no real solutions.

Any advice you can give would be much appreciated.

Signed, Fran


Hi Fran,

I’m glad you shared your concerns about your son, particularly since his problems seem to be getting worse. You’re right to seek help while he’s still young.

Your first task as a parent is to do some fact-finding. Teachers can help evaluate a child’s social strengths and weaknesses because they see so many same-age children and are able to identify when behavior is outside the norm. Since the school is small, you may be able to talk to some of his former teachers, too, to see if your son’s problems have gotten worse or if he is having new ones.

I’m disappointed his current teacher hasn’t been able to be more helpful but perhaps asking her some specific, open-ended questions could help:

  • What are your observations about the way he socializes during lunch and recess?
  • How would you compare his social maturity and competence to that of his peers?
  • What is one suggestion do you have that might help him feel more successful socially?

At this point, do more listening than talking and ask questions geared toward understanding rather than finding solutions. Also get feedback from other adults in his life: family, coaches, babysitters, etc. You seem like the type of mom who already knows how to listen with open, non-defensive ears.

Once you’ve collected your “data” and you have a better grasp of the problem, you can talk to his teacher and/or the school counselor to get suggestions for resolving one area of difficulty at a time. The school can also help you determine whether it would be helpful for you to work with a professional therapist on the outside. For example, often a few sessions with a play therapist can help kids like your son learn to make better connections with friends.

Your son is lucky to have you. With help from others, I think you’ll be able to help him overcome these difficulties.

Signed, *Amy Feld

*Amy Feld, PhD, MSW has trained and worked as a child psychologist.

Disclaimer: Nothing in this or any other post is intended to substitute for medical, psychiatric or clinical diagnosis/treatment. Rather, all posts are written as the type of advice that one friend might give to another.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,


Comments (6)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. betty batista says:

    The comments from the other mothers have really painted a picture of my 10 year old’s situation. He is extremely caring, well behaved and never had an issue at school. However, this past year kids have left him out when choosing teams and he is saddened they barely speak to him during lunch. I’ve taken the posted suggestions but I also wanted to know if there is any book you know of I can buy so we can read together?
    Thanks and good luck to all ????

  2. Pam says:

    I have to agree with the other posters that the “temper then tears” is what may be holding him back from other children seeing him as a viable friend.
    As a veteran school teacher, I’m thinking of a particular student I had who would react similarly. Other kids didn’t want to play with him because they knew his “disappointment” during a game (especially a sport) would cause the game to be held up with the need for teacher intervention as he “blew up” over what he perceived as the slightest injustice.
    Perhaps practicing scenarios and reactions at home might help. Often children who have had little experience with conflicts and losing at home, are unable to understand why they can’t have everything their way everywhere else. He needs to understand that losing at a sport or game doesn’t make him a loser, but crying and acting in a manner beneath his peers will make him stand out and be a target.

    • Tracy says:

      Well said Pam. I had a friend who spent a lot of time trying to get other parents on board with her difficult son. Much as I think it’s great to enlist help, we have to be very honest and open to our childrens’ weaknesses. It is difficult as a parent to be objective but it will always be the best route. I promise you that. I have a 20 year old and 18 year old, and facing their weaknesses was a far more helpful way for me to guide them than assuming the best all the time. I say strike a balance, get the input and then train your son to deal with his feelings appropriately. And don’t despair, with the right parenting, which always does the best for the child (not always what feels best), you’ll come out of this victorious!

  3. JAM says:

    Here are a couple acronyms that may help him remember what to do in the moment, when his heart is racing….

    PR = ACT! Which means:

    P.ersonal R.esponsibility = A.cknowledge my own feelings, C.are about myself and get calmer, T.hink of kind solutions. Then ACT them out.

    These are just a couple of the “goofy” things I’ve come up with to help myself and my kids. I also created an “Inner Toolbox” of problem solving skills and give all this to my children to help them in their lives every day, with each other in the home, and outside the home.

    We were never taught how to deal with emotions well when I was growing up (and my dad was an emotional challenge, to put it lightly). Nor were we nurtured with real positive thinking (other than cliches that were often empty, not helpful) so I meditate A LOT on my values, with God, on life, with books, etc. and do my best to arm myself and my family with really useful ways to cope. Not revenge, not sassy ways to shoot back, etc. But ways we can all really build ourselves and others up with, whether they see immediate fruits or not, it is building society up with one act, one prayer, one good thought at a time.


  4. JAM says:

    If your son is reacting with anger and tears, then other kids that are inclined to do so, will use him as a scapegoat, and lay blame on him (in other words, his negative behavior may label him as “unlikeable” and it’s always easier to shift blame and torment to the “unlikeable” kids). Negativity breeds negativity, so if he takes negative behavior out of the equation, other children will not be drawn to it, or magnify it, because it won’t be there.

    First, help your son get the previous incidents and bad feelings that have built up out of his system. Help him unload the past in healthy ways – get his anger, hurts, sorrows out with writing, drawing, telling you his stories, yelling in the mirror, punching a pillow. Do this until the well is dry.

    Next, fill the empty space with complements about even the smallest things. Did his homework? Great! Reward him by together time, playing ball. Helped a neighbor mow the lawn or shovel snow? Awesome! Get an ice cream together. Combed his own hair nicely? Washed the bathroom counter? etc. etc. etc. High fives! Happy stickers! A new little art set, ping pong ball paddles (don’t have a special table? turn your dining room table into a ping pong ball table by slapping a piece of masking tape down the middle, and having some fun!).

    Next, teach him personal responsibility for his feelings. Practice it at home first…when he doesn’t get something he wants at home and gets upset teach him first and foremost to be there for himself. How can he make himself feel better about not getting what he wants? Say he didn’t get to go to a movie he wanted to see at the theater…Teach him positive ways to cope. Acknowledge he wanted the movie. Let him know the good reason why you couldn’t go. Tell him he has a good reason for being disappointed or upset (we usually have good reasons for our feelings!). Let him work anger or disappointment out in safe ways for a little while (writing, drawing, punching a pillow, exercising, etc.)Let him talk about his feelings. Teach him to pour a little self love on with messages like: these problems happen to everyone, they are normal, the way other kids behave is not in my control, or this situation is not in my control, but my feelings about it are. I am a good person and I care about myself and my feelings. I can do some things to help myself feel better and get some things I need or want, in healthy, self loving ways. I am my own best friend (you don’t have to say all these things at first, but can build up to them little by little over time with different situations). Then start thinking about some things he wants that he can get instead – a video at home, or a couple hours at the park, etc. and do that. Also, remind him that “no” now often means “yes” later, that “no” often must means a delay in “yes”, and he can have the movie theater some other time, perhaps for his birthday or other special occasion.

    In other words, after dealing with feelings, start problem solving. Repeat this over and over and over for the smallest to the biggest problems. You are teaching him to be there for himself every time, to take responsiblity for his feelings, then for his thinking, then for his actions.

    Go over situations at school be describing the other kids’ behavior, then describe how he can stop, deal with feelings, make himself feel a little better, and problem solve in ways that he can control – without trying to manipulate or control others. Describe and visualize. Over time, if you get comfortable, you can role play with him, acting out some situations. If you give it a fun name like “We Are the Champions Charades!” he may find it more appealing and cool.

    Teach him to feel better than the crap that gets dished out by other kids. And to feel better than what may creep into his soul. Teach him to push wounders out of his sacred soul space. He’s in control of his sacred soul space, no on else. Just keep showing wounders out the door and closing the door. Let kindness in and shoo the junk out before it festers in his soul. Spiritual housekeeping, on a daily basis! Put good things in his spiritual house like family, favorite activities, favorite places, favorite toys, etc. Healthy things, true love, etc.

    When he becomes his own best friend and radiates calm, self love, balance (or in kid speak it’s more like relaxed, at peace, feeling good), he will develop much more joy, and he will be a magnate for friends.

    Also, if you have a prayer life, help him to tune in by having daily conversations with God, The Creator, or whatever name you are comfortable with. Ask for wisdom when solving problems (model this and help him do it). Ask for ideas and solutions to problems that will provide the highest good for all involved. ANd always implement solutions in kind ways. Because when we are kind, that kindness flows through and out of us – so we feel it too. When we are unkind, that cruelty flowes through us and out of us – so we feel the cruelty too. So if we are kind (even if our solutions don’t “work” for others), we get a dose of kindness flowing through us every time! So we are going to feel better regardless. Plus, knowing we are going to be there for ourselves, we are going to do the highest good we can figure out to do, and we are going to do it kindly makes us loves ourselves and respect ourselves, and feel good all the more!

    Steps toward authentic maturity, connection, and real self.

    Blessings, to you and yours!! Hope things get better on the inside and outside!


  5. Mrs. Chen says:

    Hi Fran,
    Sounds like you have identified at least one reason for your son’s social challenge — “first temper, then tears” when challenged. Kids can be cruel and may be purposely taunting your son in order to get precisely that kind of reaction out of him. They probably find his outbursts entertaining.

    The only way for this taunting to stop is if your son stops giving these kids the temper and the tears. It will be very hard for your son to not react, but it can be done. Teach him to breathe and count to 5, slowly, when a situation arises. Then shrug his shoulders and say “Fine, whatever.” Celebrate with him every time he is able to “shrug it off”. Eventually it will become a habit.

    And yes, it will get worse in middle school if he doesn’t learn to manage his emotions now. Good luck!

Leave a Reply