Mean People Are A Part Of Life So Kids Should Get Used To Them Now
It’s only natural to want to shield your kids from every sort of hurt. I have cried myself to sleep before worrying about the future and my kids being bullied or disliked. Just the thought of them being left out or feeling lonely is enough to get my lower lip quivering. It is a very normal instinct as a parent to step in and try to stop the hurt from happening but we need to fight this urge, particularly when it comes to letting our kids learn to deal with mean people. Sadly, not everyone is a good person and it is best your kids get used to that fact sooner rather than later.
My daughter is a genuinely, deep-down, kind human being. Being nice is just a reflex for her- she goes out of her way to make people happy and feeling good about themselves. She is generous with compliments, patient when someone is telling a story and from a very early age, has been a huge source of encouragement and confidence for her little brother. In her sweet naivete, she used to assume that everyone was like her and when other kids or adults did not respond to her heartfelt efforts in kind, she was literally dumbfounded. She could not understand why being nice was not getting a nice response in return and seeing her putting the pieces together that some people are just f*cking assholes was very hard to witness.
As she has gotten older, we have had many conversations about how not everyone is a nice person and that she is not obligated to be nice back but that she cannot avoid mean people. It is a conversation that breaks my heart but that I am glad we are having with her instead of trying to repair each little disappointment for her as it occurs. There are the garbage human beings we see in public that do not say anything when she sweetly says hello (and yes, I know not every stranger wants to be nice to kids and I never say anything to them but it can still make me sad) and there are people who yell and swear in traffic when we drive to school. There are the occasional substitute teachers or daycare workers that might have a bit of a sharp tongue. There is the eye-rolling receptionist at the school office who feels no need to be polite. There are kids who have smart mouths and enjoy name calling. There are a lot of mean people in the world of an elementary schooler, sadly.
That said, there are even more mean people to deal with in adult life. That is the biggest reason that I do not shield my daughter from the harsher truths of human nature. For her whole life, she will run into jerks who don’t deserve her innate kindness and she will need ways to deal with it. She is already so much stronger than she was even a year ago and at seven years old, she truly gets it- that there are mean people and we have to co-exist with them. She still comes home from school and regales me with stories of Conner the Bus Shithead who tells her to stick her face in a toilet and I tell her to ignore him and know that Conner is obviously a very unhappy boy. She sighs and moves on and I keep hoping that these little things aren’t going to add up to her deciding to abandon her sweet nature in favor of growing a harder shell. As much as I want her to learn to deal with mean people, I also don’t want her to lose her natural urge to be a nice person. Like all things in parenting, a balance must be struck. I will just keep trying to teach her to deal with the jerks but to keep her kind ways, no matter what. To me, the only bigger tragedy than my child’s feelings being hurt is her changing her heart to adapt to the cruel ways of the world.
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