Recently my child came to me with frustration and anger boiling up because another child had hurt her feelings. I sat there listening to her spill out the upset this brought her. Someone didn’t want to be her friend, didn’t want to play with her. So how do we teach our children that it is perfectly fine to not be liked by everyone, and in fact, be greatly disliked by some? I sat for a while thinking how to respond when an idea came to me.

I gave my daughter a balloon and asked her to hold it in front of her. I reached in my desk and pulled out a pin. I then told her, “I am going to pop your new balloon.” Her eyes got big and I thought she might cry as she began begging me not to ruin her new prize. I told her she couldn’t control what I was going to do and instead, I tried to focus her attention to what she could do about it. The first response was what I believe most of us would want to do, “Run away,” she said. “But what if there is no where to run,” I asked. She stared at my hand and I held the pin closer to her pretty red balloon as she continued asking me not to pop it. Again I asked, “You can’t control what I am doing, so what are YOU going to do?”

There are times when we struggle knowing someone does not like us. It can cause great stress and anxiety when we believe someone my even dislike us enough to make life hard for us. This can cause bigger issue with bullying and abuse and make us feel like we can’t stop it, like we have no control in the situation. When we feel trapped like this, we begin to believe we are helpless to how others treat us.

My daughter brought her eyes off her balloon and met mine as she began to understand what I was doing. She had begun to process an idea that allowed her to see that she was the one holding the balloon, not me. She was in control of where the balloon was and how closely she held it away from my pin. She giggled and moved the balloon behind her back. While still standing in front of me, she took the balloon out of my reach. She was in control of her balloon.

When we know how someone can hurt us, we have to ask ourselves why we are allowing them access to our feelings. The balloon represents your feelings, your desire to be liked, your need to be included. You, and only you, get to choose who you let near your balloon. We can’t control how others behave, but we can hold ourselves together by not allowing them to control our feelings and our actions.

The idea that my daughter still had her new balloon made her smile. Trying to keep it away from my pin became a game that made her laugh. I smiled and said, “Sometimes it’s hard to keep your feelings away from someone that treats you unkind. But if you can remember the game and smile, you can not only change YOUR attitude, you could possibly influence others, as well. Because what is important isn’t just how to keep others from hurting you, but to show them kindness, especially when they don’t deserve it. Go above and beyond to smile and be gracious to them, even when they hurt you.”

In reality, we don’t always know why someone doesn’t like us. It could be as simple as conflicting personalities or a minor miscommunication. It could be something that is known and irreconcilable. But grace, mercy, and kindness can go a long way in changing everyones attitudes. Even if it doesn’t make them want to hang out with you, you can be confident in knowing you have treated them how you would want to be treated. And you can rest easy with knowing your attitude is what matters most.

Even when someone doesn’t like you, always be kind! You never know when you can alter the course of someones day, even your own, with just a smile.