Thursday, April 25, 2013

“Nick Is Not My Friend Anymore”

How do you explain something to a child who doesn’t think the same way that you do?

My son’s school held a fundraiser last weekend. My wife contributed some items for the silent auction, and volunteered us to deliver pizzas that were donated by a restaurant near our house.

Kai came with us to the event as we made our pizza delivery, and we stayed for a short while to browse the items that were being auctioned.

I put in a written bid on a basket of gardening supplies that Kai’s classroom put together.

On Monday evening, when it was time for Kai to tell us about his day at school, he said, “Nick is not my friend anymore.”

As Nick has been his best friend at school for a couple years, we asked what happened.

“Nick’s mom won the auction.”

We were able to piece together that Nick’s mom was the high bidder on the gardening basket, and because of that, Kai was angry with Nick.

We explained that there was no reason to be angry. Nick’s mom must have really wanted that basket and was willing to bid more for it than we were.

That did not sway Kai at all. He said he no longer wanted to be on the same soccer team as Nick.

I said that there was no reason to be angry with Nick because of something his mother did.

That had no impact on Kai either.

I made the point that he should be happy that the basket that his classroom put together attracted a high bid, and that it went to the family of someone he knew. Wasn’t that better than it going to a stranger?

He did not agree with that either. All he knew was that Nick was a bad guy and no longer his friend.

In time, I tired of trying to change his mind. I successfully changed the subject instead.

But the next morning, as I was about to go to work, he again spoke about how angry he was at Nick.


Kai’s ability to articulate his feelings continues to get better and better. And because of that, I am gaining more insights into his anger.

He thinks differently than most of us do. He seems to react to the very last thing that happened – in this case, that Nick’s mom won the basket instead of us – rather than putting everything into context or understanding the big picture. And simply explaining it to him does not help him understand.

And so we have to figure out how to do that.

It won’t be easy, as I obviously cannot assume that what makes sense to me will make sense with him.

But understanding something is the first step toward dealing with it.

Let’s see what we can do about it.


  1. I understand the difficulty in having Kai understand the invalidity of guilt by association or the invalid concept of inherited debt. I also know that it is often the result which overrides intent in Kai's mind.

    What we had done with our son was to teach him logic early on, through various texts and exercises. This way, I could refer to the validity or invalidity of future situations based upon logic. My son is very rule oriented, and so, he would see situations by the rules of logic.

    I would have tried what you had at first tried also. I would have simply stated that it was a game, which was fairly played...and that she had simply won.

    Failing at this...I would have made a scenario in which my son would win at a game. I would illustrate the invalidity of any anger on my part at Kai for winning...or the invalidity of my being angry at his mother because he had won. I would then make the direct connection to the main case in point.

    Were I to fail at this...I would resort to example after example (stubbornly refusing to yield) until he relented...if not for anything else...just to get me off of his back :)

    It is such an important concept that I would fight for the basic principle...until I could get him to understand...everyday until he could see.

    You may also consider arguing on a mathematical basis (since Kai likes math...I sometimes do this with my son). Any positive or neutral intent would have a positive value. Only evil intent would have a negative value. If the result is a positive would be invalid to blame anyone. The problem then becomes one of perceiving intent. The general rule of the person who perceives a wrong doing of assuming the burden of evidence to show guilt...and not the other way around...would go a long way toward shortcutting the process. By realizing the multitude of reasons that a person could innocently do something...would force him to consider circumstances in context.

    In practical terms...I would ask for his supporting evidence...and then ask him to consider other ways in which the person may be innocent. Simple cause and effect relationships would illustrate the points.

    I would even go so far as diagramming each piece of evidence and either validating or invalidating each. In a diagram, not only are the relationships established, it shows the importance of the chronology of cause and effect.

    Also, a major point for Kai to remember...his mother could not have had any intent, simply based upon the fact that it was a secret bidding process. She had no prior knowledge as to what the amounts were...or to who had bid. It would have been impossible for her, and especially her son, to have been blamed. The result...positive cause and effect connection from one diagram to the supporting evidence...invalid argument.

    I don't know if Kai will think in this manner...hopefully so.

    1. Shiroi, you have a lot of good thoughts here. I don't know if Kai will think in this manner, as logic often does not seem to apply with him. But I think it is important to persist. I especially will try to diagram it out as a visual often resonates more with him than just someone explaining something. Thanks for your well considered thoughts!

  2. Our experience has been that maturity and to biding examples where he wins and we don't throw a fit helps. However, we have also tried role playing it w/him being the winner to see how he would feel if someone was mad at him for the same reason.
    Good luck

    1. I really like the idea of role playing with our showing Kai what it might be if Nick were mad at him for the same reason. Thanks, Kelly.

  3. its really fascinating actually
    I think also of all the times when R would just cry when he was small and now its so interesting because he cries sometimes much later than I would expect - like the other day he was crying for his Social skills teacher who left... 3mnths ago

    1. That's very interesting about R. I wonder what made him cry now, 3 months later. As Kai continues to improve his communication skills, I hope to better understand what he is feeling and how he thinks.


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