I wanted to destroy her and she was only 7.
And yes, you know exactly what I am talking about if you have ever had a mean child hurt your own child in any way. Don’t deny it – there lies a lion ready to pounce in each parent’s heart.
I had an idea I could become quite upset when another toddler took one of the small balls away from my little boy at a McDonald’s playroom. I also didn’t like it when, during preschool, another child pushed my child down on the ground so they could get in line in front of them. But, my true inner lion came out one Spring day when my daughter was in second grade.
On this particular day at recess, one supposedly sweet little, pony-tailed girl decided she was now the Queen of All. This cherub marched out to the slide, climbed the ladder to the top and loudly declared who would be allowed to play with her. This wasn’t necessarily so bad until she followed her declaration by choosing one little girl, MY little girl, and while pointing her stubby finger, loudly proclaimed, “And you – you may not play with me”.
On that day, a certain kind of social innocence was lost by all the little girls in the second grade as they realized Mean Girls weren’t just in High School. And me, I learned how to tame my Mother Lion instincts. (Disclaimer: no child was hurt in the first rendition or the retelling of this story, no matter what you might think)
Recognizing my first instincts were neither appropriate nor truly helpful, I devised a plan on how to help my daughter deal with Mean Girls, or Mean Kids. (Note: it worked great then, and it still works great today; it works with men, women, boys and girls, all ages and no matter where you find them – at your church, at another church, your job, your Facebook or for those who murmur behind your back)
The “What To Do About Mean Kids” Lesson Plan
#1. Don’t Pretend It Is Better Than It Is
Mean is just plain mean and it never feels good. Don’t be the proverbial ostrich and put your head in the sand – call it for what it is and admit how it feels. Telling yourself or your child that it didn’t hurt, what they said or did wasn’t that bad, or they should just have a “stiff upper lift” aren’t helpful comments. What happened was wrong – period. And it hurts.
#2. Everyone’s Human
Some people are mean most of the time; meanness defines them. But, it is also true that everyone is mean at some time. No one gets a pass from never being mean. So as we face the home truth that we ourselves can be mean, it helps to remember, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” (Matthew 7:1) Judging someone else as all bad while we ourselves are not all good is hypocrisy and that doesn’t help the situation. The situation is bad enough, try not to make it even worse
#3. Justice For All
Do not feel guilty for wanting the Mean Kid to get their just desserts. God is a just God and being made in His image, we are people who desire and seek justice. If something is wrong, we want to see it made right. A desire for the Mean Kid to be punished is healthy and your child wanting the other child to pay for their meanness is normal. We may not get to decide what the consequences are, and nor should we seek revenge; but, do not brush justice under the rug.
#4. Be Angry, but Don’t Sin
Anger is not a sin, but what we do with it and what its origin is can be sinful. Eph. 4:26 says to be angry and do not sin. Watch your words; watch your actions. Don’t retaliate. But at the same time, don’t believe that being angry against meanness is something that you need to change. Feeling anger over sinful actions of Mean Kids is not sin.
#5. Check Out: I’m Sorry
If the Mean Kid says, “I’m sorry” which they may be asked or forced to do, then you have to decide if they are sorry they got caught, if they are sorry there are consequences or if they are sorry that they have hurt someone. Is it their actions which make them sorry or anything else that results in their apology? If the “I’m sorry” is sincere and the Mean Kid takes ownership of their actions and responsibility for their consequences, then we must forgive and allow for an opportunity for that repentance to be lived out. True repentance is a change of heart resulting in a changed life. Grace gives opportunity for true repentance to show itself.
However, not every Mean Kid will be truly repentant. They will say “I’m sorry” but not mean it. We must ask, “What then?”
#6. Be Friendly, but Not a Friend
Be careful about Mean Kids. Even with an apology, be cautious as to how much trust you give them. Matthew 10:16, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” Wisdom means we allow time to show us what is true. Forgiveness means someone is given the chance to make things right; yet – forgiveness does not automatically include trust. Trust is believing in the reliability of someone or something. The Mean Kid has shown themselves reliable in being mean. That is what you can trust. Until they show you that any words of contrition are true (this is your act of forgiveness), then be the wise person scripture urges you to be. Forgive them, but don’t trust them. This can be lived out in the phrase, “Be friendly, but not a friend.” Who I am is not determined by the actions of others. I will remain kind, gentle, patient (fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5:22,23) – friendly. But that does not mean that we are friends.
What do we do about Mean Kids?
- See meanness for what it is
- Keep perspective
- Seek justice
- Be angry and don’t sin
- Receive an Apology
- Don’t give trust away cheaply
- Act godly to everyone (be friendly) – even to Mean Kids
Dear Reader, the world is full of Mean Kids. How we handle these challenging situations can often show the world what it is to love Christ and to live by God’s word which gives us the wisdom we need to handle Mean Kids. We practice this in our own lives and model it for the children who are watching us.
May we be able to be friendly to all, even the Mean Kids in our lives, while exercising wisdom.
Blessings to each of you, dear friends. Elizabeth