How do we teach our kids to include others? This title probably sounds pretty obvious to you as a parent, right? We tell our kids all the time- “Don’t leave kids out. It’s not nice. How would you feel if kids did this to you?” It seems innate. But, what about the kids who, let’s just say, aren’t very likeable? The kid who eats glue, the kid who teases others, the kid who…I’m just going to say it..learned his bad behaviors from his mother! Oh yeah, I said it! I have heard this line from so many parents over the years, “Just stay away from him!” Is this realistic? Of course not, can we, as adults “just stay away from” anyone that is annoying or mean to us? We can’t. And, neither can our kids.
For all you mothers of boys out there who are thinking, “this is such a girl thing. Boys don’t go through this.” I’m here to tell you that it’s not true. Girls just handle their rejection and rejecting differently.
Halloween is a common time where this issue occurs, as plans are often made by the kids. As parents, we can have inclusion in our thoughts to teach our children to include others in the festivities and get-togethers throughout the year.
What to Do
1) Teach your kids how to handle the difficult situations on their own. DO NOT… I repeat DO NOT call other parents and tell them how their children behaved poorly. Parents who know their kids well would already know this and have not been able to change it yet. Parents who defend their kids to the end despite what everyone else tells them will make you sorry you ever brought up how their perfect child couldn’t possibly have done anything wrong. It’s a lose-lose situation.
2) When a child asks your child if he can join in the planned activity, teach your child this mantra, “I would love it if you could join us. That would be fun” (say this even if the child asking is the last person your child wants to join them). No questions asked.
3) If there are logistics involved that would truly make it difficult for a child to join (like you have 6 kids and only 6 kids will fit in the car to the event), then teach your child the IDEA solution.
I-Identify the problem (I would love for you to join us, but we have 6 kids and we can only fit 6 in the car. How can we solve this problem?)
D-Determine all solutions (if you can get a ride with us, that would work. Or, if your mom or dad can drive some kids, we can ask more kids to join us). List all solutions- even the ridiculous ones.
E-Evaluate solutions (Have your child think about possible consequences- both positive and negative, to all possible solutions he has found).
A-Assess whether the solution your child chose was the best solution and whether he would choose the solution again if the problem arose.
4) Have the child join the group. If the child acts or says something upsetting to the other kids, teach your child to self-advocate and tell the newly added group member how his actions affect others. Use an I statement (best in the presence of others too): ” I feel/felt ____________________ (the feeling word) when you __________________ (the specific action the child did) and I would like _______________ (what you want the other person TO do, not what you want the other person to STOP doing).”
5) If the newly added group member cannot toe the line, she will realize that the actions and/or words she uses upsets the others and they don’t want to be with her if she continues to act that way.
6) Yet, if the newly added group member is enjoyable to be with, the group members will have the intrinsic reward of feeling good for including someone with whom they had a lot of fun!