Sometimes we think our kids are perfect and couldn’t possibly do things like hurtfully tease another child. But children are human and completely capable of making mistakes. Take the following scenario, for instance:
You listen, shocked, as your 8-year-old daughter teases her husky 8-year-old cousin calling her “fatso,” and not even caring that the cousin is clearly upset.
A) Chuckle to yourself. Afterall, your niece IS overweight.
B) Send your daughter to her room and apologize to your niece.
C) Call your daughter a name that’s worse than “fatso.”
If we want kids to be kind and to do what’s right, it’s imperative that parents teach them to recognize that unkind words and deeds are hurtful. Michele Borba, author of Building Moral Intelligence (Jossey-Bass; $24.95), says parents should always call attention to their kids’ unkind actions. Without giving a lengthy sermon and launching into a tirade about it though, briefly name and describe the unkind action to your child — focusing on the behavior and not your child. Make certain your child understands the unkind behavior you object to and why you disapprove. (“Name calling is not nice because it puts someone down. That’s something I won’t allow.”)
The critical part of disciplining a child who has acted unkindly is in helping her to understand how her actions affect other people. Doing this can be effective in enhancing kindness, consideration and helpfulness. Finally, give your child the chance to make amends. Because you can’t put words into your child’s mouth, involve her in making her own plan of reconciliation.