“Nobody wants to play with me.”
“She won’t be my friend.”
My heart was broken on hearing these words from my teary-eyed granddaughter. She felt dejected. The old nursery rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me,” is cute but is not true.
My little granddaughter can attest that words hurt just as bad as being hit with a stone. It seems too early for 6-year-old first-graders to deal with such hurtful matters. Honestly, I was ready to march to her class and give a long lesson on being kind and how to use nice words. But as wisdom prevailed, my thoughts settled on ways to address the “mean girls” dilemma.
First, be a role model of what is right and good. As women we must use sweet, nurturing words within earshot of our children. Are we known for being sarcastic, cynical, gossipy, demeaning, crude?
The adage, “Do as I say, not as I do,” is old and tired and dishonest. No matter what we tell our children to do, they will mirror the behavior they witness. Big doses of positive reminders of their worth and value as a beloved child are important. A good sense of self-worth will make being a friend to the friendless appealing.
Second, respect. We cannot allow disrespectful behavior to be the norm in our children. There were times that I endured too many verbal sparring matches with my children. In my desire to allow honest discussion, sometimes the respect boundary was crossed.
Our sweet children are not angels. Some may struggle at times with what I call the “me, myself, and I elf” (that’s “self” without the “s”). That mean elf just waits to take over at the expense of another’s feelings. The gift of respect is what we present to another human being whether they deserve it or not. Be a model of respect.
Lastly, teach. Here’s a thought: If the only interaction our child receives is from a small PDA device like an ipad, iphone, or a notebook, then they may be devoid of proper social skills with others. They may not be able to cope with the differences they see in others, so their default is to dominate another just as they dominate that hand-held device. It is a scary thought. When we see behavior that is not wholesome, civil, or just, we need to empower the child with appropriate relationship skills.
There are a lot of challenges our children and grandchildren will face—that’s life. Yet, we would be remiss if they enter adulthood without proper skills to be victorious over some challenges such as meanness and bullying.