When an adult makes a social faux pas in the office or at a party, most of the time, nothing happens. The other adults in the room will overlook the poor choice of words or behavior. They may even try to put a spin on what happens so it doesn’t make Mr. Malaprop look bad.
But kids will do nothing of the kind. In this type of setting, kids can be downright mean. For a very good reason:
This is how kids are taught what is and isn’t acceptable thought, speech, and behavior, within a given peer group.
Teachable Social Moments
It’s only through such blunders that a scenario is created for correction, which one might even call “a teachable moment.” Except that it hurts like heck for the kid whose reputation is on the chopping block.
Unfortunately, there is no way to evade this necessary step in a child’s socialization. For the most part, that is. This is how kids learn social norms of behavior.
It’s always been this way.
Still, there is a way to raise kinder, gentler, children. You do this by talking to children about kindness to others and about setting good examples of friendship. Speak about their friends and if you sense one of the crowd is being emotionally brutalized for awkward behavior, see if you can’t encourage your child to befriend that other lonely, suffering child. Have your son imagine the boy’s feelings in that setting and what he might do to ease the victim’s entry into the social scene. At the very least, discuss how your child might keep that boy from permanent disgrace by becoming his staunch and loyal (possibly sole) friend.
Offer to host the boy for an after-school snack, study, and play time. Show your child how much kindness means to this boy. See if he can’t make headway in getting the boy accepted into schoolyard games, activities, and cliques.
Monitor the situation to make sure your own child doesn’t become the victim for befriending his less socially-adept classmate. But if that does happen, let him know his sacrifice is appreciated and that someday, his friends will need and count on his loyalty in their own awkward situations somewhere down the line. It’s never pleasant to be on the wrong side of the society of one’s peers, but a parent can make a child feel like a secret Superman, dedicated to good deeds.
A Social Hero
Let him know that to you, he’s Clark Kent. He’s your quiet hero for being a true-blue friend. And help him ride out the tough storms of childhood, that necessary unavoidable rough patch of time in which kids become the harshest social taskmasters of them all.