For a young 6- or 7-year-old, name-calling is a common coping mechanism. Kids this age are learning how to get along with others. For a child who hasn't yet developed the tools she needs to cope with awkward or uncomfortable situations, name-calling might seem like the only solution. And while name-calling is a normal part of growing up, it's clearly not the best way to handle conflict. By following these simple ideas, you can help your child develop more effective social skills and put an end to name-calling:
Identify the reasons. Is he copying words he hears from older siblings or on television? Take the time to help your child identify positive role models and point out the positive way these people talk to and about others. Is your child being bullied at home or school? By putting others down, an insecure child feels "powerful" and in control. Help him to come up with solutions that address the actual problem and you'll probably find that the name-calling stops. Is he seeking attention? Sometimes, even negative attention is better than no attention at all.
Set family rules and establish consequences. Say, "In our family, we do not call people names." If name-calling is not allowed in your home, make certain older siblings and the adults also abide by the rule. Tell your children that name-calling will result in a consequence and be sure to follow through. Remind your children of the rules when they go outside to play or to school.
Teach empathy. Ask your child how she would feel if someone called her a name. Role play a situation where your child is the underdog and is being called names, and then talk about the feelings she has.
Reward positive behavior. Encourage your child to handle conflict without resorting to name calling and praise him when he does it. Praise your child when he plays fairly and is kind to others.
Point to the Creator. Remind your child that God made and loves us all and when we make fun of someone, we're mocking his creation. Look up verses that talk about using words wisely (Prov. 18:4, Eph. 4:15, James 3:5).
Mother of three
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