Teaching kids to deal with mean kids?
Ah, childhood. Long summer days, bicycle rides, melting popsicles, fresh-cut grass... That sweet time in your life when all your peers are big ol' jerks. Kids, without that fully developed brain-mouth filter, can be really mean! I've noticed a lot of kids will let insults, especially unintentional ones, slide right off their backs. But some things, man, they can cut right to the bone, eh? When our self-esteem is still flowering and our bodies changing and everything is so new... A mean comment can follow us for years if we don't know how to deal with it.
Let's be honest with one another, not all of us grew out of it either. I know I can be unintentionally mean sometimes and I've certainly hurt feelings, I think most of us have. But it's important to know how to deal with mean people, kids or otherwise, in a way that lets us feel empowered, not cold or stifled.
One method I think is effective for teaching kids to deal with mean kids is to show them the old saying, “No one can hurt your feelings unless you let them.” It's true, though it can be hard to practice. I think teaching kids that mean comments and snotty behavior isn't a reflection on THEIR character, but the person who is being mean.
It's a thin line, though, because we don't want to teach our kids to be cold and aloof... pitying their lesser peers for their lack of upstanding character when they're mean. Most kids don't even mean it! Not a good way to make friends...
Nor do we want our kids to be the know-it-all who corrects their peers on their bad behavior. (Guilty. I once beat up a boy in the stair well for being mean to the dwarf girl at school. Maybe not the best method, lol.)
We also don't want bullheaded kids who think they're perfect all the time and refuse to accept criticism or corrections gracefully.
So, it's tough, and I think just about everyone struggles with it at some point or another.
My best advice is to teach them to treat each occurrence situationally... What did the 'mean' kid say? Is it true? If yes... Do you like that quality about yourself? Is it helpful to you? If yes, move on. If no, why? Is it something you can change? No—forget about it. Yes—think of methods to change it.
In cases when it's not true and the kid is being mean in order to assert dominance, ostracize, what have you, I want to teach my kids to
1. Stay calm. Don't let the mean kid have the satisfaction of putting you down. A well placed “Very well, then.” does wonders.... although it is pretty aloof.
2. Speak in “I” sentences... Something even I still struggle with today. Don't say “YOU are being mean.” say “I think that comment was mean, and I think you shouldn't speak to me like that.”
3 Teach them that we, ourselves, are responsible for our own feelings. Let it go.... Just let it go. Feel whatever feeling you have, breathe through it, and let it float away. Don't be attached, don't be a victim. Forgive (whether or not they offered an apology) and move on. Don't say “You made me sad.” Take back your own power and say to yourself “I feel sad, this too shall pass.” No one else is responsible for our reactions.
4. Choose, logically, how to react. Understand your feeling, and don't react brashly. Take it into account, and treat others as you want to be treated. A little bit of kindness and patience can go a long, long way with someone who treats us unkindly. Maybe they don't even know how to be nice because everyone has been mean to them. It happens.
I think it will take time to teach my kids that. Heck, in the heat of the moment, I still struggle with it. But... I'm a big fan of Buddhist philosophy, and this is the method I want to use.
What about you?
How do you go about teaching your kids how to deal with mean kids?