HomeHealth & BehaviorBullying

Ask the Experts

My Daughter Is Being Excluded

By Dr. Stacie Bunning, clinical psychologist


My daughter is in the second grade and is having problems with some girls at the school excluding her from playing with them. It seems to be one girl, who gets other girls to do what she says. I have talked to the teacher several times about this and she says it is best if the girls work it out themselves. I don't think that it is working out so well, and I have tried yet again to talk to the teacher about this and she replies, "Maybe they don't want to play with her!" I think that is very unprofessional and I feel bad for my daughter when she comes home crying almost everyday.

She is a very smart girl and they like her when they need help reading or doing their math, but when it comes time to play on the play ground they exclude her. How can I help my daughter cope with these girls at school, and make her feel good about herself again? I thought by talking to the teacher this would help, but I was very wrong and now I feel my daughter's pain. How do I go about talking to my daughter and what advice do I give her?


You were absolutely right to speak to your daughter's teacher about your concerns; after all, she is the one who spends the better part of each day with your child and therefore is in the best position to observe the dynamics among her students. Unfortunately, you didn't get a very helpful response. If I were you, I would dig a little deeper. Is the problem occurring just at recess, or in other less-structured situations, as well? For example, is your daughter able to enjoy socializing at the lunch table? Is she invited to birthday parties? Does she have play dates? Is she involved in social/group activities outside of school? If you answered "no" to most or all of these questions, then you might want to talk with a licensed professional counselor or psychologist about social skills training for your little girl. A few educational sessions about making friends and interacting with others might benefit her tremendously. Also, consider signing her up for a team sport (such as soccer) or a group (such as Girl Scouts) of other children her age outside of school.

If the problems occur exclusively during the school day (that is, she has plenty of social opportunities outside of school, including group activities and play dates), then a talk with the school counselor or even the principal is in order. You have tried twice to address the issue with your daughter's teacher, to no avail. It's time to move up the ladder and take the matter to an administrator. Most schools have strict regulations against bullying of any kind - physical or psychological - and if your daughter is being deliberately singled out for exclusion or rejection, she is being bullied; something needs to be done. Arm yourself with information by finding out what the policy against bullying is at your daughter's school.

Finally, be sure to monitor your own emotional reactions. Although you are understandably pained by your daughter's heartbreak, try not to dwell on it or allow her to dwell on it. Of course, children love attention (of any kind), and your daughter may have figured out that when she feels sad about being left out at school, it brings Mommy closer, which feels really good. Then you end up with a difficult-to-break cycle of complaining/crying, nurturing/reassuring. If you suspect this might be the case, gradually shorten these conversations and redirect your daughter's focus to talking about two or three positive things that happened at school that day.

Dr. Stacie Bunning is a licensed clinical psychologist in the St. Louis area. She has worked with children, adolescents, and their families in a variety of clinical settings for 20 years. Bunning also teaches courses in child psychology, adolescent psychology, and human development at Maryville University in St. Louis.

Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.

Comments from readers

"What if your child is new to the area/school/neighborhood and is not well acquainted with the children and his/her parents are not acquainted with the children's parents? He/she would not be invited to parties or play dates. What if the parents are bias toward their children and believe everything their children tell them? What if the bullying is fueled by the parent's negative perception of the child being bullied, because of the biased/one-sided point of view information the parent received from their child. What do you do then? Do still take your child to counseling to make him/her feel b ad, like it's something wrong with them? Are you really trying to tell us that if our children don't socialize well that it's okay to be bullied , that it's their fault htqt they are bullied that if they had better social skills that they would not be getting bullied never mind the fact that they (with no social skills) are able to be nice , refrain from calling other children names or! picking on them, basically not being a bully, but they're the ones with problems. That sounds like bullying in a pschological aspect, because I'm not a social wonder call me names,noooooooooooooooooo its the other children that need help/probably their parents too. By the time your child reaches 2nd grade you should already know if your child is a bully and you shouldd not be condoning this! IT IS NEVER OKAY TO CALL A CHILD OUT OF HIS/HER NAME OR FOR A CHILD TO BE MADE TO FEEL BAD ABOUT HOW HE/SHE LOOKS OR DRESSES!!!!!! It is an atrocity that this is happening at theyoung age of 7&8! I teach my kids never, ever is their a reason to call someone out of their name. "
"you did the right thing to talk to the teacher but for her not to listen then thats wrong you should talk to the Princibal about this and your may have figured out that when she feels sad about being left out at school it bring mommy closer."
"Having 4 kids, I have seen both sides of this. As a parent we automatically assume that it's wrong to do it and the other kids are being mean, that our kids are being excluded 'just because'. I can say that when one of my daughters was being excluded there was a reason. I didn't see it at first bc I felt her pain and that was it. I started to really pay attn and noticed that she always wanted to be the boss of the group and then when it was someone else's turn she decided she didn't want to play anymore. I'm not saying this is what your daughter is doing but keep an open mind and open eyes and don't just blame the other kids without understanding why they don't want to play. Have her ask them why they won't play with her. You might be surprised at the answer. Good luck! "
"I dont know why kids get excluded yet my daughter is too, and I dont believe that a doctor is going to fix the problem, it needs to be fixed at school. If one is being excluded at word it needs to be fixed at work. The kids have to be asked what they do not like about that person or when would it be ok for that person to play with you, find out what is the problem and try to fix it. the truth of the matter is if a person has a problem it is there perception of the person, and it can be changed only when you change the other persons perception of there problem."
"What do you say to a small school where the ADULTS call it 'just life' to 'cut' one girl only who may be trying out for cheerleader or dance team? This happened to my 6th grader and her friend---the ONLY TWO GIRLS IN 7th-9th GRADES who were not included in one of those 2 activities. Adult leaders not only condoned this selection process, but were adamant that it continue. I was ostracized as a mother who was 'just upset about my daughter not making drill team!' We are in a small private school and the selection processs seems to necessitate someone not being chosen in order for the others to feel chosen."
"I'm sure that the little girl does not need help with her social skills. This is a big problem going on in schools for a log time. My daughter, now 20, had this same experience that started in kindergarten. She was a very outgoing, happy little girl always starting conversations and playing with anyone she met. When she started school the other girls would not play with her. She cried everyday, too. The teacher was no help and neither were the parents. This was a clique that started with the parents! This continued through high school with the same girls. It is still going on, our whole town is like this. Luckily when she switched to public middle school there were many more girls and she was very popular. Because of this experience, she became very independent. She didn't need to have a buddy with her to do something as most of these girls do. She was very sad for a long time, though, and I thought the teachers should have done something about it. They were ju! st as bad. But I believe it goes back to the parents. We teach our children to treat others as they want to be treated. It seems most people do not do this."