We moved into a new school this year, and have had really good experiences, for the most part. However, one of my children had a hard time with a classmate. It was a real struggle. The two children just didn’t hit it off, which often left me asking “Why can’t we get along?”
We have since worked through the issues the two had and they are now friends. Our success was built on some communication strategies that apply to all humans. Here are some ideas for parents to teach their children – tips for getting along with classmates.
First, the situation needs to be objectively evaluated. My child’s perspective of the situation is going to be skewed because feelings were hurt. As a parent, I needed to speak with the classroom teacher and get the classroom teacher’s opinion about the interactions. After counseling with the teacher and my child, I was better able to help my child navigate a difficult situation.
Next, understanding the motivation of both parties is important. Most children aren’t mean to be mean. Usually, there is something in their lives causing the behavior. Not that we all need to be child psychologists, but trying to understand the “antagonist’s” point of view can make it easier for the other child to deal with it. In our case, it helped my child to understand that the other child was experiencing trials at home.
Help the child develop coping strategies. Once the motivation is at least talked about, then it was time to help my child think of ways to deal with the negative behavior. We role-played different scenarios and how my child could respond to each of the scenarios. We practiced these responses until my child felt comfortable with them. It’s important to make sure the responses feel natural to the child, otherwise they won’t be usable.
Introduce yourself to the parent of the child involved with the issues and the child. Take the time to get to know both the parent and the child in these of situations. It’s best to be a friend to both the parent and the child. The old adage “You catch more flies with honey” applies here. And while it’s hard not to be “Momma Bear”, I found the turning point in our situation was when I got to know the child and her mother. It’s hard to be mean to someone you like.
Finally, follow up with periodic conversations about how the two children are getting along. It’s been important, in our situation, for me to keep checking in with my child. I started out checking daily to make sure that the relationship wasn’t backsliding. After a couple of weeks, I checked with the classroom teacher to see how things looked from the classroom teacher’s perspective. After receiving reassurance there, I now only check in periodically with my child – once or so a month. I do make it clear that I want to hear about anything that happens, so that my child knows I’m still here to help if it’s needed.
It’s important to note that this type of resolution process works most of the time, but there are some people who are just not going to like my children. Being friendly and kind is still good advice in those situations, but it’s also okay to just avoid those people. Nowhere in the universe is it written that all children will adore all other children. And trying to force interactions may lead to bigger problems.
Also, being bullied is different than not getting along with someone, and needs to be handled in a completely different manner. The child being bullied needs to feel empowered and safe, and immediate adult intervention helps do that. In our situation, once I knew no bullying was happening, I coached my child in ways and techniques that would help my child work through the problem basically alone. This helped my child learn how to deal with difficult people – a useful skill for everyone.