Always Be Kind

Charlotte O'Shea

This post stems from a discussion the team had recently following on from a recent experience Mabel had at nursery.

She was stood at the top of the stairs ready to come down and leave with her Daddy in the morning yet I could sense there was something not quite right.

“Mummy, I don’t think I look lovely”

?!?!?!

“Mabel you always look lovely! you are lovely!”

“Eve* said I will only look lovely if I wear a dress, these trousers are yucky”

(Mabel had never before, apart from to show preference for one thing over the other, actually said she didn’t like a piece of clothing specifically).

“Eve said I can’t use my special soap either because I am not special” (Mabel has a plain soap in the toilet as the antibacterial stuff the nursery uses irritates her eczema).

I would be hiding the truth if I didn’t admit to wanting to tell Mabel to advise Eve to shove the special soap where the sun doesn’t shine.

Eve is however only a year older than Mabel, and as much as I’ve taken an immediate dislike to this particular dress-only wearing 4 year old, I am (definitely) old enough to appreciate that you don’t manage unkindness with retaliation.

And then there’s Alex*, Alex likes to shout in Mabel’s face and take away whatever she might be playing with at any given time. Alex also likes to tell Mabel how much bigger he is than her and how much faster he can run.

Yeah, you just wait until sports day mate.

This is all very tongue in cheek obviously, I’m sure Eve simply picked up her expressions from the television or an older sibling and is usually a very sweet dress-only wearing 4 year old. Alex is simply intimidated by my daughter’s small yet mighty appearance, and really, who can blame him.

With children from a few months old to thirteen, the team have had our fair share of experiences when it comes to our kids being made to feel upset, hurt or unsure of their own self worth.

The general consensus was that we all do what we can to encourage our littles to respond to taunts or cruelty by simply saying “That is very unkind, please be kind“. Obviously I am directing this at pre-school/primary school age, I appreciate situations become far more fractious and heated as they become older and a few polite words are not going to have the desired effect.

I’m not naive enough to think Mabel has never dished out the (3 year old version) of an insult or upset someone else of a similar age. I just hope it happens rarely, and is in response to what she feels is unkindness, rather than simply deciding to be mean. I also thought when it came to dealing with this kind of situation I would know what to do, and sometimes I really don’t.

All I can endeavour to do is encourage her to be kind. Always.

How have you handled your children being upset due to taunts from other kids? What have you found to be successful in terms of talking to them about the situation and advising them how to deal with something similar in the future? Obviously I only have experience of a 3 year old, I would be really interested to hear about experiences with older children too.

mm
Charlotte is still determined to wear her fancy cowboy boots, even if Mabel does plaster the tassels in jam.
Follow Charlotte on instagram @charlotte.oshea

21 Comments. Leave new

Sarah Braide
6th July 2017 7:19 am

This sort of thing worries me so much. It hurts my heart to think of other children being mean to my children. Amelie has cerebral palsy so will look different when she’s older. But then there was nothing particularly different about me and I was still on the receiving end of some unkind words. Kids (and adults) can just be mean sometimes.

We were in Ikea on Sunday and Amelie was playing in “the circle” (I’m sure all IKEAs have them, with screens and some games) when a mean boy took offence to her having her turn (she has waited SO patiently). He kept trying to ruin her game, pull her hand off and then put his head on hers. She’s only 3 and a half and I really wanted to intervene. But I stood back and watched and was very proud to see she held her ground without retaliating. I’m sure they’ll be other times when she’s not so restrained, but this showed just how far she’s come and how much her confidence has grown.

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Charlotte O'Shea
6th July 2017 8:17 am

Bless her Sarah, it’s so difficult not to intervene when it’s happening right in front of you, I’m not sure I would have been as level headed as you in that situation. Love the Cinderella quote x

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Sarah Braide
6th July 2017 7:25 am

And although it’s a bit cheesy, I love the quote “have courage and be kind” from the Cinderella remake. Sums it up I think!

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This is such a minefield! It’s the worst feeling ever when someone has upset your baby. Definitely at Mabel’s age (I have a 2 and a half year old), I think it should all be about teaching kindness and respect. And not to hit lol! But as stepmum to a 13 year old, in my experience it does get harder to strike a balance as they get older. You don’t want them to be cruel or get in trouble at school for over-retaliation, but equally you don’t want them to become a target for bullies because they don’t stand up for themselves. There’s no magic solution but I do always try to advise the older one to look beneath the surface to see if there are other reasons for mean behaviour. I tell her it’s not an excuse, but no one’s perfect and we should try to weigh up all the factors before responding. Easier said than done at times though! Most of all I have to remember not to let them see how cross I am that someone has hurt their feelings. 😊 x

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Charlotte O'Shea
6th July 2017 9:13 am

“There’s no magic solution but I do always try to advise the older one to look beneath the surface to see if there are other reasons for mean behaviour. I tell her it’s not an excuse, but no one’s perfect and we should try to weigh up all the factors before responding” love this – spot on Tracy x

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This is so relevant to me right now and its something I worry about a lot. The only way we can protect our children in these situations is to teach them to look after themselves – if that makes sense? Like Sarah Braide I try and hang back to see how my son handles it. And we’ve taught him to just say ‘no thank you’ when another child snatches or pushes etc (this is what the Nursery encourage) and not to push back. However my 4 year old son has Autism and I worry so much about him getting older and standing out for being different. He is a very gentle soul. Until very recently he didn’t play with other children (he was just confused by them). However now he is very interested in them and wants to join in and copy which is great. Not so great is that the other children have started telling him ‘No’ when he asks to join in. Apparently it’s because they are not used to him joining in and say it’s because ‘he doesn’t play these games’ however it doesn’t stop me wanting to punch the other child in the face! (tell me that’s not just me??!). My son is so meek he just looks confused and walks off and won’t try asking again. I am trying to encourage him to keep having a go but I worry about when he starts school in September. I was bullied for being shy so I know how tough it is – forget the Mean Streets it can be the Mean Playground!

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My daughter had a condition with similar traits to Autism and she has just recently become interested in other kids (age 5). I’m delighted but it also breaks my wee heart as she doesn’t know how to interact properly and follows them around as she can’t quite keep up. However the children at nursery are generally really good with her; they do treat her like a baby but at least they are kind. I like to think that being around her is teaching the other kids to be patient and kind and that some kids are different. Maybe I’m living in a dream world, lol!! X

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Lottie Manns
6th July 2017 12:46 pm

I think that is a lovely way to think about it Nikki and I am sure that it is. All children need to know that not everyone is the same and that they need to accepting of that x

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Thank you for your words Nikki. I love your sentiment, its a better way to think about it – with hope! x

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Oh Charlotte, I’m sorry to hear Mabel is on the end of unkind words/actions. It’s so tricky to know how to navigate.

My daughter started Reception last September and as a confident outgoing child I didn’t worry at all that she may not make friends despite not having attended the school nursery.

After a month or so she became quite withdrawn and extremely quiet. We didn’t hear of friends at school but I put it down to kids being kids and not sharing much about their day.

During the first parents eve in November her teacher described her as very very quiet. She said some of the others babied her as she was so teeny (July baby and very very small and petite for her age).

It was on evening whilst plaiting her hair after bath time I realised there was a big issue when I found a large chunk of hair that’d be cut off. When questioned, she eventually and reluctantly told me that a girl in her class (who was supposedly a good friend) had cut off her hair. I tried not to emotionally react and asked if they were playing hairdressers, assuming it’s happened in the classroom. My daughter very matter of factly looked and me and said “no mummy. It was in the dinner queue with a knife”. It turns out the child had hacked through her hair with a butter knife. God knows how long that would’ve taken!

We immediately addressed it with school who responded very collaboratelively and proactively. However this has continued on and off through the whole school year. Ranging from physical squeezing, pinching, hair pulling to emotional controlling. My daughter would never ever tell me what she’d eaten for lunch…turns out the other child was “forcing” her to eat what she ate at lunch time. She wouldn’t let her play with others and if she tried to told my daughter she would get in lots of trouble with the teachers (which she believed) or threats that the child would tell other peers to not be friends/no like my daughter.

I was at a loss as this continued to happen. I continued to use the school to mediate and was simply advised that my child needed to learn how to stick up for herself more. Be more assertive. Walk away from the other girl.

The sad thing is that she is dominated by this child and absolutely believes she will get into trouble if she tells the teacher, or be physically hurt.

I have tried to role play with my child to build her confidence to speak up and say “you’re not the boss of me” or “stop I don’t like it”. I’m told by her teachers that her confidence has improved and she is speaking up but the behaviour still continues.

It’s such a moral quandary. My husband and I rightly or wrongly discussed that of our son (who’s at nursery and nearly 2) were in the same situation we would tell him to give the other hold a shove and show them who’s boss….that’s terrible isn’t it?!

I’m so sad to see my daughters first year at school tarnished by this and to see her confidence nose dive. I’m shocked that a 4/5 year old child can be so controlling and manipulative.

It’s a really tricky one. So do you ride it out and consistently reinforce “that’s mean, leave me alone”…how long do you let it continue for?

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A – so sorry to hear your daughter’s story, that is heartbreaking and so shocking. I struggle to believe the school can’t do more to minimise contact between the two of them and to keep an eye on what is going on. To be honest as children get older sometimes giving the other child a ‘shove’ as you say is what works rather than just being the bigger person. Just need to be careful they don’t get labelled the bully instead! I really hope things improve for you all soon.

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Thanks LJ. They’ve separated them in class but it seems to happen at break times so there needs to be a continued provision in place i think xx

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This is so tough and awful for you all. I also find it hard to believe the school can’t do more. Cutting her hair off with a knife!!! I too second the good shove and shout.

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It’s shocking isn’t it. I have to questionnwherenon earth a child might have picked up that sort of behaviour. If I’m being entirely honest it took every shred of will to not go and shout at her! So hard when you’re emotional invested. xx

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A – 😢 Could you speak to the head teacher and/or the governors? Xx

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I may escalate it to them Lisa.
At the moment they’re following the anti bullying policy they have. Xx

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Charlotte O'Shea
7th July 2017 12:01 pm

Oh A this breaks my heart. I can’t for the life of me understand why the knife incident wouldn’t have been spotted or taken more seriously. I actually heard of a very similar incident in a school in the area where we used to live, I was really shocked. We send our children to school to learn, and ultimately be safe. I fully appreciate that you can’t predict the behaviour of other children but I am so sad to hear your daughters confidence was been so effected. I would go with the route Lisa suggested below and and seek direct support from the Head/governors. I hope the situation improves for you, lots of love x

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Oh it sucks! you do your level best and grow a good hearted sweet natured little one and hand them over and then they get walloped by big ones and taunted by mean ones and all you can do is keep on keeping on.

I was bullied severely (verbal/emotional abuse) in primary school and am dreading the day S comes home upset by a nasty comment. I’ve tried to encourage her to be more resilient and tough than I was but it’s a delicate balance. The absolute worst thing would be hearing your child was the bully. Maybe a good response is asking the other child if they are unhappy if they are being unkind?

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From my perspective as a Reception teacher with years of experience working with young children, the best advice I can give is that unkindness is a learnt behaviour. No children are born knowing the words to hurt others. They learn it through watching adults. The very best example you can set for your children in perhaps not shared through what you tell them to so or say, but by what they see you do and say to others.

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I appreciate though that this doesn’t help when your child is the one being targeted. If problems continue a good strategy is to ask the school/nursery what they have in place to encourage and reward kindness.

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It’s just heartbreaking to think of another child being unkind to your own. My daughter is two and a half so hasn’t had pre school experiences yet but has had the odd boy in the playground not let her play with the digger and a 4 year old girl tell she is a baby and can’t climb the jungle gym (she proved her wrong!). I have been so proud that she doesn’t react, just goes about her digging or climbing, but I also would love her to stand up for yourself and say oi buzz off, is that bad?! :) We have a lovely book called The Playground Meanie, about two unkind koalas (who turn out nice in the end) it’s very cute and has really helped us. I can explain that the children in the playground are being unkind and likewise when my daughter doesn’t want to share a toy at a play date I can remind her of those naughty kolas :)
I hope Mabel puts those children in their place :)

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