How can kids be so mean at such a young age, teasing kids about clothes and shoes. My friend told me that her 7 year old is so cautious about what he wears to school because he doesn’t want to be teased in 2nd grade!
I was once at a local playground after school when my daughter was 5 and had just started kindergarten. A little girl, either 6 or 7, went up to my daughter and said “Nice Sketchers (brand of shoe), wanna play?” My daughter had no idea what she was talking about until she told her it was her shoes. Another little girl standing by them asked if she liked her shoes and the girl replied, “They’re not Sketchers.” And the Sketcher loving girl ran off with my with daughter to play on the swings leaving the other girl in the dust. That conversation has been burned in my mind for the past 4 years. Upsetting, I know. (And no, I did not intervene. I chose to let the scene play itself out and discussed my concerns with my daughter on the way home because I knew she wouldn’t have had the slightest idea what happened)
Anytime a person is putting down another, it is a way of positioning themselves for perceived power.
We can analyze why the girl who likes Sketchers feels the expensive shoe is a symbol of power. She may view monetary value of the product as a superior trait. She may believe that the more money someone has, the more power they have. This is not an uncommon view and certainly one that is learned by watching and listening to others, not uniquely manifested.
Or more simply for a child her age, she could feel the style is more to her liking and therefore she has something in common with the other person with similar taste. She is drawn to like minded people so she feels like she belongs and would prefer to be around someone who views things/style as she does. This is natural for everyone. We are typically drawn to others with similar interests and values. The more in common we feel we are to someone, the more we feel we are on an equal playing field of power.
Or we can decide she is a mean spirited little girl and its much easier to pass judgment on her and her parents for raising such an unpleasant little girl and feel good that our children would never say such things…that we are aware of. Feel the power of looking down on someone else?
What’s wonderful about children is that they are ever evolving and learning. They learn from everything and everyone around them. They will be exposed to unkindness and they will be unkind themselves as they are learning how to find their place in this world and experience which behaviors get them what they want.
The best thing we can do for our children is to be aware of what we are teaching them. How do you speak about others in front of them? How do you compare yourself to others? What are they learning from you by your words and actions? We may preach equality, but do we teach equality with our actions?
Parenting is just as much about personal reflection as it is noticing what’s around us, since what we teach them is a mirror of how we view the world and our place in it.
I am mindful about how I talk about others in front of my kids, but there are times when my own judgments seep through (or pour through) and they are absorbing every bit of my ego infused rant. Our humanness is what gets in the way of our perfection, which creates a wonderful opportunity to point out our mistakes and how we learn from them.
The reality is, the more comfortable our children are with themselves and the more secure they feel, the more comfortable they will be with their perceived position and sense of power. The key is to help them understand that being different doesn’t mean less than.
Our children will experience hurt by being judged by others. It’s inevitable. We can’t protect them from others judgment, but we can teach them how to view themselves in a way that is less judged and have faith that will hold on to it as they experience it for themselves.