Is this your child? He’s mean to his schoolmates or family. He offended a friend or a family member and is not sure how to make it right.
Unfortunately this happens all the time with kids. Their brain is still developing and the part of the brain that controls impulsivity hasn’t fully matured.
What can you do?
Sit your child down for a talk
“I don’t want to talk about it!”
That’s what you’re likely to hear when approaching your child about something they have done wrong. Pick a time of day that your kid is calm such as after dinner or before bed. Ask them to explain what happened. It may be that he felt scared or frustrated. Don’t interrupt. Make sure that your child finishes the story completely. At a natural pause, ask clarifying questions.
For example, your son may have had a fight with a friend at school. The school principal calls and you’re angry!
Don’t assume you know what happened. Don’t scold your son when he comes home.
“Wait until later in the day when his emotions have calmed down.”
Ask what happened, hear his side of the story and don’t interrupt until he’s finished. Once there’s a pause ask “What happened before the fight?” “Was he frustrated with his friend or was something else already bothering him?” “Was there something else he could do besides fighting?”
Have your child recognize that an apology is necessary
“I will not apologize!”
An apology is hard, really hard. This is true even for adults. Nonetheless, it is necessary as a first step of healing a broken friendship or family relationship.
You child may have objections that they didn’t start the argument and it’s not their fault. That may be so and be careful not to blame them. Nonetheless tell them that relationships are special and are more important than who started. It takes a bigger special person to take the first step and apologize even if they didn’t start. The other person may be just waiting for this opportunity to make up and end the disagreement.
Somewhere in the end of the conversation with your child you can ask “How can you make it better?”
It’s very important that your child reaches their own conclusion about how to right the wrong. Kids are funny but when you push them they push back.
“When you let them come up with the idea of an apology, they own the solution.”
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For example if you child has offended a family member, ask “How can they make them feel better?” or “How can you start healing?
In the fight example above, ask your son how they can repair the friendship? I asked my son the same questions after a particularly nasty schoolyard fight. He thought about it for a few minutes and finally came up with a plan that went something like this.
- Approach the boy during school break
- Apologize to the other boy for fighting
- Ask him to play a game after school
“An apology is not enough.”
Sometimes an apology is not enough to soothe the hurt feelings. Action needs to be taken to truly glue the relationship back.
Actions speak louder than words
“I’ll make it better!”
This is the secret sauce that makes the relationship heal. An apology is great but following it up with meaningful actions that show you are committed to the friendship/family relationship will actually make it happen.
After your child realizes that an apology is needed, ask a follow up question “What action can you take tomorrow to show that you mean it?”
For example, my son invited the boy he fought with to my house to play soccer over the weekend. Seeing they were getting along my wife invited the boy to stay for dinner. By the end of the day they were friends again.
“Positive actions put the relationship back together again.”
In summary, when your child needs to right a wrong:
- Talk with them
- Have them realize an apology is needed no matter who started the argument
- Follow up the apology with actions
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