Teaching niceness
Nov. 25, 2013
by Jenni Sebora

Girls can be mean to each other. I am sure, if you are a parent or not, you have heard or witnessed the content of that statement. In fact, there is a movie called “Mean Girls,” that is based on just what the title says.

It seems the worst of the meanness for girls occurs in those notorious junior high years. Drama. Trying to fit in. Control. Attention. Hormones? Learned behavior. I believe that these are some of the reasons why our kids engage in what is mean behavior.

We also know that boys certainly can be mean to their peers, as well. Control. Attention. Hormones.

My junior high daughter came home from school just last week very upset, stating “Drama. I am sick of drama. Why are people so mean to each other?”

She went on to tell me that a couple of girls were teasing a friend of hers about her physical characteristics. Of course, her friend was upset and hurt, and rightfully so. As much as our kids are learning to brush things off and not allow these words to affect them and not take them to heart, words do hurt. Even as adults, words hurt.

My daughter was not finished yet. A so-called hurtful and untrue rumor was started about another girl in her class. My daughter asked me if I could talk with the parents. Ah, kids can be so smart. She knows that parents can be at the heart of aiding either in the help or hindrance of such behavior in our kids.

I can honestly say that my daughter is not a drama queen. She is a good friend to many kids. She does not like to see people hurting each other. It really bothers her.

My husband and I have had many conversations with our kids – an upperclassman, a junior high student, and an upper elementary student – about not getting involved in drama and hurtful conversations.

So, we know that even with the best parenting skills and role modeling, kids can still engage in negative behavior. However, those incidences can be greatly reduced, diminished, relinquished, and, yes, maybe even avoided, if we, as adults, role model appropriate behavior.

Adults need not engage in negative conversations nor belittle our children’s peers in front of them, especially not with them. It certainly is OK to talk about negative behavior that children exhibit and discuss the ramifications of it.

Parents need to have open dialogues with their kids at appropriate developmental levels. How I talk, and what I talk about with my 16-year-old son is different than my dialogue with my fourth-grader, of course, but it needs to happen.

We need to role model niceness. We also need to teach our children how to take the high road, as I call it, which is simply (not so simple to always do it, in fact, it can be very difficult) not engaging and reacting to negative comments, conversations, and behaviors with others.

Niceness can be infectious, and so we need to instill and role model this for our children. We also need to teach and show our children what wonderful individuals they are, so if they are the receivers of teasing or meanness, they can, hopefully, rise above it.

And, of course, the bigger support systems our children have, the better. Parents. Teachers. Coaches. Relatives. We can all play a role in role modeling, listening, and supporting our children.

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