It is very sad that even young children can be unbelievably cruel to each other. Although I don't believe that there is such a thing as a bad child. There are many children who have been left without lessons, and therefore behave badly.
A mom expressed concern when her 7-year-old was thoughtless and mean to a friend. Initially, she was very pleased during a play date at their home when her daughter reviewed all their recently posted house rules with her young friend. But then her daughter went on to dictate additional rules that only applied to this particular little guest.
Her guest was told to stay off their living room couch and her bed because she smells.
Mom was horrified to hear her daughter speak with such thoughtlessness. Upset but unknowing of what to do, mom kept a close ear out for other egregious insults.
Soon after, her daughter said her friend had a really big nose that made her look ugly. Later, her daughter added, "You're really fat. I'm skinny."
Added to previously hurtful statements, this last exclamation was disturbing because she expressed a distorted self-image. Her daughter had rapidly gained weight over the past two years.
Whether driven by over-confidence or an incredible lack of sensitivity, it was time for mom to make a move.
Teach outside the event
I prompted mom to tell her daughter that she may invite friends to play only if she is kind to them. I told mom to warn that she will be watching and will remove her daughter from playing whenever she speaks unkindly. Apologies and some act of kindness (allowing her friend to choose the next game) will be necessary to return to her play date.
I suggested mom purchase index cards and smiley stickers to play a game. She was prompted to write both thoughtful and rude statements and questions on each of the cards. For example, "If you receive a birthday gift that you don't like, what should you say?"
"What can you say to a friend who wants to play with one of your special, fragile toys?"
Offer the opportunity for both girls to answer before confirming the correct answer and awarding a smile for each correct answer. Use everyday examples on the cards that will build your family values and teach as you play. Have fun!
Diana Boggia, M.Ed., is a parenting educator in Stark County, Ohio. Send your child-rearing questions to Family Matters@cantonrep.com or The Repository, c/o Family Matters, 500 Market Ave. S, Canton, OH 44702. Find additional parenting resources, along with links to all of her Repository columns, at Diana Boggia's website, www.yourperfectchild.com.