Being Mean to a Friend

November 9, 2017
Being Mean to a Friend

How can we teach children the importance of being kind? 

This week, the team at SeedlingsGroup focuses on teaching young children how to learn from a difficult play date and make changes for the future

Helping Your Child Understand They’ve Hurt Someone

  • Keep calm and avoid making your child feel shame.  Your reaction can help your child to stay calm and reflect on their behavior in the moment.
  • Let your child know why a friend may have had her/her feelings hurt. Ask your child to think of any way they could help their friend feel better. Offer suggestions if your child can’t come up with any.
  • Discuss what happened and why using hurtful words and being mean to friends hurts people’s feelings.
  • Talk about a time when your child’s feelings were hurt.  Ask for examples of hurtful words they have heard and what he or she can say that would be kind instead.
  • Separate the behavior that happened from who your child is as a person. Help them realize that they aren’t mean, but only did something mean.
  • Explain the consequences.  Tell your child that when people get their feelings hurt they don’t want to play anymore.
  • While it’s not a good idea to force your child to give an inauthentic apology, if your child does want to express remorse, help your child to write an apology. Encourage your child to think about what may make their friend feel better and what words can make the situation better.

Changing Future Behavior

  • In the moment, prompt your child to re-do it (“Please try that again. This time, please say this to your friend in a kind voice”). Remember that when you give your child this prompt your voice needs to be calm, and you should be close but not touching. If they do follow your instructions, give them specific praise with a high-five or another form of touch.

  • At home when your child is calm, have them do a “pretend” scene. “Pretend I am your friend ______ (insert name) and you are you. Can you say something nice to me? Or if you don’t have anything nice to say, try to just stay quiet.” If your child pretends, they get a reward (like a sticker). This creates the behavior you want, and reinforces it on the spot, making it more likely to happen in real life! Remember, you aren’t giving your child a sticker for being kind, you are giving a sticker for listening and practicing how to have a successful play date.

  • Point out times when you notice your child being kind, thoughtful, and calm, and let them know that you noticed. Get up close and eye level and use touch to make praise most effective.

  • Above all, remind yourself that children are learning how to behave and negotiate new situations. This, like everything else, is an opportunity for them to grow as a person. Try not to focus on being angry or embarrassed by this behavior and use it to teach for the next time.

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