As bullying has received increased scrutiny in recent years, parents must play an active role. But it may be challenging to distinguish between bullying behavior and children being mean.
At times, children can act out by being cruel to each other for various reasons and emotions. Here are a few strategies to help your child cope:
Talk to Your Child
Communication with your children regarding any behaviors they need to change is of utmost importance, particularly if they may be caused by anxiety, depression, or trauma. Once identified as such a root cause can help them learn how to deal with mean kids more effectively.
Make sure that when conversing with your child, use a calm, reasonable tone. Anger or frustration could make him or her defensive and unwilling to listen to what you have to say. Instead, pose questions and offer your perspective about the issue at hand; this will allow your child to open up more and start a productive dialogue.
Your child should also understand that their actions will have consequences, including taking away privileges like television viewing and play dates with friends if their negative behavior continues. This will send the message that their negative actions have an immediate effect on your relationship and must stop.
Discuss the significance of reporting bullying behavior to a teacher or trusted adult. Children often do not report being bullied out of fear that it might make them look “tattler-ish,” yet speaking up can help other students feel safer and supported. Therefore it is vital that your child learns this message early on.
Remind your child that it is essential they treat all people, even those they do not particularly like, with respect and kindness. Encourage them to show this behavior in all circumstances – including those they find less appealing.
At the same time, it is also essential to recognize that mean kids usually don’t do things intentionally – rather, it may be caused by poor parenting, an adverse environment or learned attitudes over time. Make sure your child knows they are loved unconditionally!
If your child is having difficulty communicating their emotions, suggest they take time out from the situation to relax by taking a short break or spending some time alone. Once they can talk freely again, explain that it is essential for them to apologize to anyone they have hurt either verbally or written down.
Ignore the Mean Kids
Nothing can be more disheartening as a parent than discovering that your child has been excluded from his or her peers or mistreated at school by someone. Although it can be tempting to get caught up in power struggles between classmates, instead focus on teaching your kids how to cope in these circumstances.
One of the best ways to help children learn how to cope with mean children is by practicing different strategies beforehand. One effective tool is role-playing situations similar to ones they might experience at school; for example, if your child is having trouble with a peer who keeps screaming constantly then use the “no” rule and ask your child to calmly inform him/her that this behavior is upsetting them and needs to stop immediately.
Reminding your child they can break free of negative relationships by surrounding themselves with kids who are truly kind can also help. Help them identify which students fall under this category and encourage them to seek them out during activities at school and recess if unsure who these friends might be; their teacher or guidance counselor could be an excellent source of assistance here.
Behavior experts often employ an active ignoring technique when their child misbehaves. This teaches kids the effects of their actions, encouraging them to choose more beneficial actions in the future without rewards being shown to them for misbehavior.
Children often act in bad ways if they feel powerless and unheard. If a daughter is mean to her mother, it is often an indication of an underlying issue at home. It’s important to remember that their behavior may be an attempt at seeking attention or help – for instance, when acting aggressively towards classmates it could be due to new siblings arriving or their mother returning full-time at work.
Validate their feelings rather than dismiss them outright, instead saying “I understand how frustrating it must be when you don’t receive enough attention”. This will show them that someone is listening and their feelings are valid.
Children often resort to role play to cope with confusing or frightening life issues, like pretending to visit the doctor or fire department or practicing how to put out house fires. Children also use such scenarios to test out new approaches for social interactions with peers and family.
Kids who act mean are usually showing difficult emotions they find hard to manage, such as insecurity, self-doubt, anger, and anxiety. Because their threshold for these emotions may be low, they tend to display them through actions such as putting down peers, bullying them, or otherwise behaving in unkind ways.
Common causes of disruptive child behaviors are when children do not receive enough positive, healthy adult-directed play. Play helps young children develop social skills, motor coordination, and self-expression naturally. To ensure your child receives sufficient quality adult-directed play sessions, give them free rein to play in safe spaces with friends or other children without supervision, taking on roles of superhero, teacher, parent, or authority figures to meet their need for power without resorting to negative tactics against other children.
Parents need to remain engaged during this type of play with their children without hovering. Too much parental attention while playing can tire the child out and reduce motivation to continue. Try remaining in the background and watching without interjecting or redirecting. This allows you to gain more insight into who your child is as an individual while experiencing them in their element without needing to constantly interact with them.
Role-playing can provide the ideal opportunity to discuss with your child the causes of his/her behavior, by listening to what they have to say and asking pertinent questions. Perhaps their poor conduct stems from trauma or stress in their lives such as the loss of a pet, divorce from one parent, new siblings entering the family unit, etc.
Children who act out negatively – be it pulling on a dog’s tail, mocking someone’s weight, or bullying classmates – often struggle with negative emotions they themselves are experiencing and don’t have the tools for self-awareness and emotional regulation skills to manage them effectively, projecting these uncomfortable emotions onto others and using violence as a coping strategy.
If your child is being mean to others, the best thing you can do for her is help her understand her own feelings and behaviors. Redirect any misbehavior with positive alternatives and focus her attention elsewhere; such as reading or working on homework. Another strategy called active ignoring may also work; simply withdraw your attention when your child misbehaves and reward desirable actions such as sitting calmly when she shows desirable signs.
Children who engage in bullying frequently have family or social environments that condone aggressive or harmful behavior. Bullying peers may seem acceptable, especially after watching shows that promote meanness such as those that “vote off” people for appearance or talent reasons on television shows like The Voice or American Idol.
Kids who are mean can become powerless and helpless, which puts them at an increased risk of bullying. Children from marginalized communities, children with disabilities, and refugee families may be especially at risk; to protect your own child and ensure they do not become targets, make sure your child has strong social connections, extracurricular activities, and an understanding family environment.
if your child is being bullied or their safety is at stake, it is time to involve their school or other adults in the process. If it persists over time, consider consulting a counselor trained to work with children as soon as possible. When bullying happens on an ongoing basis by so-called mean kids targeting your children or other students it no longer just means “being mean”, it becomes bullying which can have serious repercussions for young minds.