Picture this: My eight year old needs to brush her hair. I gently remind her by saying “Please remember to brush your hair.” Ten minutes later, she hasn’t brushed her hair. I say “Jane, you need to brush your hair before we leave.” A few minutes later she still has not. I then more firmly state “Please go brush your hair now.” She scoffs and stomps her feet. “Jane you need to brush your hair or I’ll brush it.” She screams and throws the brush. I then foolishly yell “Fine don’t brush it.”
I think parents who have daughter’s with long hair would relate. Jane hates having her hair brushed. She frequently brushes the front pieces and says she is done. So I went into this already frustrated because we have had many talks about what she needs to do. (And fyi I have given her leave in conditioner and detangle spray.) And yet, I did wrong and needed to apologize.
I should have followed the blog I wrote earlier Teaching Our Kids (and Ourselves) How to Handle Anger.
When I noticed Jane becoming frustrated (when she stomped her feet), I should have immediately walked away to cool down. I know that when she is angry we are not going to get anything accomplished. Plus, her behavior made me angry so I need to regroup.
After I yelled at her I walked away and immediately realized I did the wrong thing. I then used some cool thoughts and took some deep breaths. I walked back to her and said “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have yelled at you.” I then told her I loved her. She hugged me back and told me loved me. I then told her she still needs to brush her hair. She let me.
Someone is acting like a jerk toward your daughter or son. How should he or she respond? Hopefully it is assertively but not aggressively. Wikipedia states “assertiveness is the quality of being self-assured and confident without being aggressive.” What does this look like though? I say be firm but not rude. For example, someone just called Sally fat. She can firmly say, “Don’t talk about me that way. I don’t like it” or “It’s not okay to talk to me that way.” Note she does not need to defend herself or call any names back. Roleplay doing this with your child. I also suggest using the tips from Teaching Our Kids (and Ourselves) How to Handle Anger to calm down before telling the peer to stop. When we are initially angry is when we all tend to say things we shouldn’t.
If the behavior continues, there are a few options.
Your child could walk away and not give the person the satisfaction of seeing her upset. She could then go talk it out with a friend or trusted adult.
Your child could also report the behavior to the adult in charge and let them handle it (hopefully). If your kid feels like she would get more harassment for doing this, see if there is a way the kid making fun of her could be caught doing it. For example, if Johnny always calls Sally fat in the lunch room, see if the lunch monitor could stay in the area and really pay attention to catch him.
I want to stress that your child calling names back or resorting to violence/threats will result in your child receiving consequences. I say let the other kid be the guilty one!
Stefanie F. Pisarkiewicz, LPC
Experience and information from a counselor and mother- sharing her two cents on children and teens.