Inside: 5 tips all parents need to know to deal with mean kids, unkind kids, or bullies while helping our kids stay kind.
Oh my god.
You can’t even cross the monkey bars yet?
You’re such a baby.
You can’t play with us because you don’t even know that velcro shoes are dumb.
We don’t want you on our team because you suck.
There are unkind people in the world. And they’re raising unkind kids.
There are kind-ish people in the world who don’t spend the time it takes to raise kind kids.
And those unkind kids hang out on the same playground with our kids.
So my kids, like most kids, sometimes get the short end of the stick and have to deal with these mean comments and mean kids.
And it’s frustrating for both our kids and for us.
But there’s something we can do about it.
We can help our kids deal with the unkind kids, while staying kind.
Why we have to help our kids deal with “mean kids”
Seeing our children upset is incredibly heartbreaking.
None of us wants to send our kids out the door just so that they can be hurt or traumatized by the mean kids at school.
Helping our children to deal with the mean kids is honestly, one of the best things that we can do for their development in childhood.
You see, like it or not, we really do have to deal with mean kids our entire lives.
There will always be mean kids, snarky people, or bullies throughout life.
Whether you deal with someone who pushes past you while shopping, or a co-worker that tries to take credit for your ideas, these “mean kids” are all around us and part of becoming successful in life is to learn how to handle them appropriately.
So, one key to success later in life is learning how to deal with difficult people or “mean kids” when we’re young.
We have to teach our kids how to interact with these people in emotionally healthy ways.
And different people take different approaches to this life skill.
But since we’re intentionally raising our kids to be kind, we can help our kids deal with mean kids in kind ways.
Related: How to Raise Kind Kids
Our kids may be around mean kids, but that doesn’t mean they have to become mean when dealing with them.
Ways to Help Your Kids Deal with Unkind Kids
Conflict is all around us.
Mean people are part of our community.
Not everyone is taught to value kindness.
And since “mean kids” grow up to be mean adults, we need to learn to handle meanness when we’re young.
Depending on your child’s age, maturity level, and confidence level, here are several tactics to help kids handle tough situations and mean kids.
Here’s a printable list to help you guide your kids you can download below.
1. Listen and Connect When Your Kids Deal with Mean Kids
When our children encounter mean kids, it can be really hard on them.
If they have a kind little soul, it may be shocking for them and genuinely upsetting to learn other kids can be cruel and hurtful.
Or, their feelings might have been really hurt by something said.
Or maybe they got embarrassed and called out publicly by the mean kids.
It’s not easy to navigate the social structure of a playground.
So we have to let our children know we are a safe place. They can tell us what’s happening and we will always be on their side.
Because our kids need to have someone to talk to about the tough stuff. Especially to someone who’s already gone through it.
And kids who feel connected to us will open up and tell us what’s on their mind and what they’re stuggling with.
While we listen, we don’t need to fix their problem or tell them what to do or get ready to unleash Mama Bear on the mean kids.
Because what our children genuinely need is someone who will listen to them, show them empathy, and let them know we support and love them.
Our kids need to feel validated and seen and heard and understood.
It’s hard, but try to reserve judgment and resist an emotional reaction.
Simply being there and listening can be enough.
But when they’re done venting or complaining or crying, you can also ask them: Do you want me to just listen or do you want to talk about ideas to solve/handle the problem?
2. Help your kids find real friends
One simple way to deal with mean kids is to not spend time with them.
To physically walk away from the mean kids.
Bullies tend to target kids who are different, perceived to be different, or kids who are alone.
So encourage your kids to spend time with kinder, genuine friends.
Preschool teachers everywhere will cringe, but our kids don’t need to be friends with everyone.
They do not have to hang around kids who put them down, tease them, or belittle them.
Our kids need to be reminded they can walk away from mean kids and spend time with kids they enjoy.
You can use this Friendship Checklist to help them decide who is a great, real, true friend…and who is not.
If your child isn’t sure who the kind kids are, reach out to your child’s teacher for ideas. They always know who the genuinely kind-hearted kids are.
Foster those relationships.
Invite those kids over for playdates/hangouts.
Remind your child to seek those kids out at recess and lunch.
Not sure how to make a new friend? Use these Meet New Friends Role Playing Scenarios to help them practice different strategies ahead of time.
3. Help them Build Confidence to Stand Up to and Deal With Mean Kids
Our kind kids do not have to become doormats and take the meanness.
There might be a reason kids are being mean to them but they don’t have to take emotional abuse.
They can, and should, stand up for themselves and their friends.
And they can do it in a way that’s assertive and confident, without retaliating.
But often our kids need help with what to say to kids who are unkind.
An easy place to start is:
Knock it off.
But this is hard to do.
And it takes practice because it can be scary and overwhelming to stand up to mean kids.
Especially if it’s a group of mean kids.
Remind them there’s safety in numbers and if they’re nervous to stand up to a mean kid to do it when they’re not alone.
And if they’re not ready, there’s always Step 2 and 5.
4. Teach them to Be Mad Without Being Mean
Kindness can do amazing things.
And since we’re raising our kids to be kind, we have to help them be mad at someone or frustrated at someone without retaliating.
They can say “stop” or “no “or “knock it off” without throwing in a mean name or a taunt or a shove.
Our kids can maintain their kindness even when dealing with unkindness.
And we can teach our kids we treat others with kindness not because of how they treat us, but because we have decided to be kind people.
It’s part of who we are.
It’s what we value.
It’s ingrained in us to be kind.
Even when others are mean. We don’t change who we are.
They also don’t need to be a doormat. They don’t need to be nice and polite and keep taking the verbal abuse, unkind words, or the torment.
5. Teach Them When to Get Help
It’s a big, mature skill to deal with conflict on their own.
And since most kids need to work up to it, they also need to know there’s help available.
Many kids have no problems going to adults for help.
But some kids need “permission.” They need to know it’s okay to ask for help when they need it.
So teaching our kids the difference between tattling and telling will help them decide when it’s time to ask a teacher or yard staff for help (and if the first adult they tell doesn’t help them, they can go to another adult)!
It’s “tattling” when we try to get someone in trouble because they’re bugging us or breaking a rule.
It’s “telling” when someone is physically or emotionally hurt, or about to get hurt.
And it’s okay to tell. Adults are there to help.
Sometimes we all need help.
However our kids choose to deal with the unkindness around them, as long as they remember to stay kind themselves, they’ll be able to hand the unkind kids, and then later, the unkind adults.