I spoke with a mum the other day who recounted the mean words that her daughter had endured in the playground at school. “You can’t play with us,” they said, as the little group closed the circle and whispered to each other.
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When your little angel starts to withdraw into themselves and no longer wants to go to school, there’s a dread that sets in. Your mama heart aches as you witness your little bundle of sunshine getting knocked around by their peers.
Words have the power to hurt or to heal. Mean words can feel quite literally like we have taken a punch to the gut. For a parent, to hear that our kids have been on the receiving end of meanness hits the alarm button like nothing else. The overwhelming urge to race to our kids defence is completely automatic and understandable. We’d rather take on the meanness ourselves (don’t try this at home, this is not a good idea!).
Meanness isn’t just for kids
You probably still feel your stomach sink when you find yourself ‘accidentally’ dropped off the invite list. Maybe you’ve heard your name muttered while walking past the water-cooler at work. Sadly, meanness isn’t confined to the primary school playground. Adults know it all too well in the workplace too.
People are just people wherever they go. The saying, ‘Hurt people hurt people’ rings true. Even as fully grown rational and reasonable adults, we occasionally get tripped up by the odd snarky remark. They still make us feel small.
Sadly, we can’t cleanse the planet of meanness. We can’t always be there in the moment to protect our kids. But we can help – and in doing so, probably help ourselves to process the water-cooler moments too. So how do we teach our little ones to navigate the landscape of mean ‘friends’?
How to help your kids push back with the truth
Meanness gets under the skin of kind kids who get stuck in their tracks, unsure of how to stand up for themselves. Like a deer in the headlights, kind kids can find themselves frozen to the spot. They can be so frightened of the ramifications of taking a stand that they hide away. Kind kids run out of strategies for how to tackle the meanness and take care of themselves. Well, not anymore.
Australian parenting speaker, author and educator Michelle Mitchell has a powerful antidote to meanness with her ‘Push back with truth’ video. It’s short, snappy and brilliant. She teaches our kids to assertively push back. Instead of ignoring it, or meeting meanness with meanness, Michelle suggests that kids courageously push back with words of truth. Saying things like, “Hey, I don’t think you should be saying that to me – I’m a really nice person,” gives a child the power they need to stand up for themselves in the moment.
A resource to help
As parents we want to equip our kids to face their tough situations but we can struggle to find the best tools. This is not the time for wishy washy techniques. In the face of meanness, kids need something snappy to help them tackle things with confidence. Michelle brilliantly equips kids with the tools that they need to stand tall one sentence at a time. These strong and sassy sound bites will help your tween find the language for what they need in the moment. I can’t wait for you to check it out here.
So take heart, there is a way that we can empower our kind kids to stand up to meanness. They can be the kind comeback Kings and Queens of the future.