Do we really want to talk to our kids about being mean? The answer to this question is yes! In order to comprehensively teach children about kindness, they also have to grasp the concept of mean-spiritedness, its consequences and often-times its devastating results.
Unfortunately all of us, including our children, have to deal with individuals that exhibit hurtful behavior. It is important for our children to understand that any type of mean behavior that they initiate either on their own or in a group setting can have a strong, negative impact on the recipient. They must grasp that this type of behavior is aggressive, may become bullying or even abuse – none of which is ever acceptable.
A nice exercise to do with your children regarding this topic starts with giving them some examples and asking them what they think the recipient of that behavior may feel. This is a great way to hear their thoughts, and get a meaningful discussion started regarding kindness vs. mean-spirited behavior. Some ideas to get the creative juices flowing:
- A group of children are playing and another child wants to join in, but the group will not allow the child to play, and they start laughing and making fun of the other child.
- A student is called on in class and doesn’t know the answer, and a bunch of kids start whispering and laughing.
- There is a child that is new to the class and is standing on the side of the playground with no one to play with. One of the boys in the class goes over to him and asks if he wants to play.
- A child is walking down the hallway and trips. One of the kids walking in the other direction helps him up.
You’ll note that two mean-spirited and two kindness examples are listed. Following these examples, let your children come up with their own examples and the impact on the recipient, both positive and negative. Encourage a discussion of behavior they have seen and even behavior they themselves have exhibited. If they share instances where they exhibited mean behavior, keep an open mind and ask them what they can do differently next time. Always keep the conversation going in a positive manner about better choices.
When it comes to kind or mean-spirited behavior there’s always a choice. Your children will have to make these choices every day. Through discussion you can help your children uncover the right actions on their own, where kindness is always the chosen option.