“I know you like having one special friend all to yourself. But some kids like to have more than one friend. Just because Jasper wants to include other kids, doesn’t mean you’re not special to him. Sounds like you need to decide if you can get comfortable with playing with Jasper in a group. That’s up to you.”
“It sounds like if you want your friends to play with you, you’ll have to think about if you can be flexible and include their ideas in your play—to take turns playing different roles and letting other people go first, sometimes. What do you think you want to do?”
“Remember when you were working so hard to ride a two-wheeler and got really mad every time you fell? You did not like the feeling of not being perfect at it right away—that’s hard for a lot of people, me too! You might want to think about what you would want a friend to say to you in that kind of situation, and how you want to respond to your friends when they are having a hard time. What kind of response would make your friends have good feelings about you?”
Recently I have found that having these conversations via FaceTime or Zoom can be very effective. You and your child go into separate spaces and have the discussion remotely. This can reduce the discomfort some kids experience having these conversations face-to-face. It takes some of the pressure off and opens them up more.
5. Provide a tool to help your child stop unkind behavior.
Come up with a cue word that you will say out loud when you see your child going down an unkind path, to help her pause and see if she can make a course correction before things spiral out of control. Brian does this with his son, Derrick, who has a habit of teasing kids on the playground.
Brian calls out “banana-brain”, the funny word they came up with together when the teasing begins. More often than not, Derrick stops the taunting and moves on in a more positive way. Providing this kind of support demonstrates to your child that you are on his side and are helping him make better choices.
When to seek help
If the mean behavior persists and is interfering on a regular basis in your child’s ability to thrive at school, at home, or with peers, I recommend seeking the support of a child development expert. These are complex issues children struggle with that may need more specialized attention.
Written by: Claire Lerner Originally appeared on: Learner Chld Development Republished with permission