We all want our children to get along well with everyone. In fact, we believe they are perfect and can do nothing wrong.
I have seen this in the school playground. Girls will gang up on a certain schoolmate and ostracize her or boys will hurt some classmates. And the frustrating thing is – the parents are clueless! They find it hard to accept and actually are very surprised when they find out their child is hurting others.
When your child is being mean, what should you do?
(By the way, I have seen children being mean as early as preschool. I don’t think they are aware of it, because they are used to being the lone star in their homes. Once you put these “stars in their homes” together in school, they will tend to clash. Everyone wants to be the star!)
Once you see, overhear, or hear someone tell you that your child is being mean, take steps to stop it IMMEDIATELY. Be careful though. It may not be helpful to put the blame on him right away. Likewise, it is not right to label him a bully. Your intervention is crucial, but do not judge nor criticize your child. Instead, make it clear that the behavior is unacceptable and one that you won’t tolerate. Then, explore possible solutions with him.
Ask him what he can do instead of fighting. If he didn’t like what his friend did, ask him how he can tell his friend in a way that will not hurt him.
Explain to him the importance of treating others with kindness and respect.
Tell him how to share, negotiate or compromise. Ask him, “How do you think you can borrow that toy from your friend without hurting his feelings or making him angry? Let’s come up with ideas.” Encourage your child to come up with solutions and choose one to try. Follow it up in a few days and see how it is working. If it is not doing well, choose a new one with him. Children sometimes act mean because they don’t know how to get what they want through any other way. They need to realize that there are better ways to handle the problem.
If your child’s behavior persists, establish consequences for his actions. Ground him. Shorten his playtime if he continues to act in ways that are unacceptable. If it happens in school, work it out or coordinate with the teacher. Analyze your behavior and your family situation also. Children do tend to imitate their parents. Are you being mean, too?