I always teach my kids that when people are mean, we don’t want cruel people as our friends – we want the nice ones. I tell them, if someone says something mean, look right at them, smile a really obnoxiously authentic smile, and say a really enthusiastic “THANKS” or “THANK YOU”! Followed by walking away. If kids say, “You can’t play with us!” Smile and say an enthusiastic “okay”! Walk away and find something else to do. We don’t need unkind people as friends. We pray for them instead.
Don’t let them see tears because bullies like that. Sad but true. Hug it out when you come home, go take a breath in the restroom, or go talk to the school counselor if you need to vent. Only when it comes to bullies, tears are fuel. Really important that we don’t teach them to bottle up their feelings which can have a whole mess of consequences.
Unfortunately much of our world is not kind. Some is taught, some is chosen. Parents please take every opportunity to teach your children how to react and treat people when they meet someone special and unique (and that that’s all of us!). I realize we aren’t always in control there, but if we really teach this over and over, it makes a difference.
Kids need to know that they might meet someone without ears or who maybe talks in a way they haven’t heard before or with a missing arm, etc. Give them the tools to know how to extend friendship rather than judgement. Teach them not to stare, point or be rude, but instead teach them to go say hi, go ask their name and introduce themselves. Teach them to see the person and NOT their difference. Teach them that differences make us the awesome, unique people we are. Teach them it would be UBER BORING if we were all the same.
Teach them NOT TO CARE what others say about them being friends with “this kid” or “that kid”. Be kind, be a friend, be strong and be true to yourself.
When I say teach I mean create a never-ending dialog. Ask them what kind of person they want to be in life. Find out how they’d feel in someone else’s position if they were being made fun of for how they looked, talked or walked. Talk about these things often, ask your child what they think differences are and explore that together. Watch documentaries about people with all types of challenges and give them the opportunity to ask questions and really normalize it all. I do this with teaching my kids about how fortunate they are and how easy we have it compared to how others live across the globe, the struggles, etc. It really works as a wonderful tool. Talk, talk, talk and every time there’s a teaching moment – take it!
Love, tolerance, respect, kindness, strength. No fear!
Check out this little kiddos story which inspired my post today.