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My Scorched Earth Philosophy on Dealing with Mean Kids – Not To Be Used As Actual Advice*

*If you are offended by bad language, you should skip this one.

Nearly all of us are preaching the gospel of parents everywhere to the children in our homes: Be kind to everyone, we say. Choose kind, be kind, live kind. And while all of that is absolutely how we desire for our children to act, there is a dirty little secret for lots of parents which many of us won’t mention, at least at first: Stand up for yourself, we whisper after we hear another story about a bratty little kid doing something bratty. If he hits you again and you’ve told the teacher already and it is not stopping, you are allowed to hit him back. If he pours coke on you again, you are allowed to spit on him. If she pushes you again, you are allowed to push her back.

If this sounds barbaric to you, then, likely, this is your first child and, most likely, she is not a boy. From what I have heard, if the girls are going to play unkind, it is less physical and more mental. Boys seem to give it both ways – meanness for them can come in physical or mental form. I am all about letting kids run free and play free, but I also know they are kids and Lord of the Flies didn’t work out too well. Remember Piggy? He died.

I have entered the stage where little kids can be assholes; they can also be incredibly wonderful little sweethearts, but that does not eliminate their ability to be jerks. They are like us, really, just smaller in stature.

Children with mothers and fathers who seem to be decent enough people can be total asinine, mean, little dickwads. I thought meanness started later for some reason, but parenthood likes to surprise me at every turn.

It seems that many of us are, unfortunately, ready to teach our kids a thing or two that we probably should not. We are all just winging it, after all. My kindness shtick has gone out the window as is evidenced by this conversation from dinner the other night:

My kid: “Sometimes I want to move to a great big house with 5 bathrooms because [Johnny] always rudely asks me why I have a tiny house.”

Me, while cutting up asparagus on his plate: “When [Johnny] rudely asks that question, you can go ahead and ask [Johnny] why he has a tiny penis.”

So, yes, we are dealing with every situation really well over here. Obviously. Parenting at its finest, folks.

I continued cutting, my other children continued eating, my husband choked on the beer that was going down his throat. Once he could speak, he took the reins of that conversation, as if there were any left to hold.

It’s not like he needed to really. For those of you who know my eldest, you know that he talked me straight. I am more being raised than doing the raising with that one. He laughed and told me to settle down, that he liked my joke and that he’d just ignore him. I also suggested using “tiny brain” in place of the other more vulgar version and he thought that was a little better, though still over-the-top and unnecessary.

To be clear, it seems that most of us start with, “Find someone else to play with then” and “Just tell her that you don’t like that” or “Let the teacher know.” We all start rightly. And then, we begin to change those refrains because lots of kids do not want to tell the teacher and, I don’t know, we’re just tired is all. We watch to see if what our children say is happening is actually happening. When we see that it is, evolution makes some of us ugly: Mama bears don’t play.

It’s a whole new ballgame when you have a kid being an actual jackass to your kid. I’m talking actual meanness – making fun of, pushing, excluding – which some say is a part of childhood, but which I say has no business in the world of young children. Or, how about anywhere, for that matter. It is happening in kindergarten and first grade and second grade classrooms and it is happening to boys and girls. It is happening during school while girls are choosing who to sit next to at circle time and it is happening on the playground when boys are picking football teams. Beautiful little girls who I’d never think could be teased still get nailed; boys who are great little guys do, too. When there is a jerk in the class, no one is safe. It happens in secret and when adults’ backs are turned and it is bothersome to kids. Probably, it is bothersome even to these little jerks who are acting like brats because hurt people are the only ones who hurt people.

I’ve heard of mothers planning play dates with other kids and excluding the one who is acting like a jerk. I’ve heard of parents requesting that their children not be put in the same classroom as the kid who is acting like a jerk to their kid. I obviously use a different method. More Mike Tyson, only with words.

After we laughed about my comment, I asked my kid what he does when someone says something that hurts his feelings and he said this: “I rise up out of it all by going inside my brain and thinking about how I know myself.”

I did not teach him this shit. I am trying to teach him other, less evolved shit and he is not listening to me. If this is not proof that each human is his/her own unique human soul, I don’t know what else is. I certainly did not fill his teacup with any of this.

The hardest part of parenting is how we just never know when the new thing begins – when meanness starts, when the world changes, when they change. I’m often one step behind. And sometimes, light years.

And so, on we grow, together. And by we, I mostly mean me.

I just have to believe that the goodness of the world outweighs the bad, that the sweethearts outweigh the jackasses, that each little boy or girl will know their worth does not begin or end with someone who is treating them poorly.

When I’m not fired up, we will continue to talk about the importance of kindness, about how it can change someone’s whole day, about how much better it feels to live that way. And then I’ll just hope and pray that they remember that more than they remember the other stuff I’ve said.

And P.S. If it ever happens that your entitled little sweetheart tells you about some kid who asked him about his tiny penis, I’m sorry. Well, kind of.

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