Q&A My Perspective: Why are Kids So Mean?

by Lynn on December 9, 2012


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.


Taking it In Perspective,





  • Aunt Janet

    Lynn, That was a very nice article to read and ponder over. I probably would have said something at the playground (even though my kids never had Sketchers) which I have since realized would Not have been the best way to handle the situation. I have learned a lot of parental do’s and don’t's from your blog. Wish you had been around way back when…….However, I am very proud of my children and how they are raising their children!! Must have done something right or they just are following your blog also!!

  • http://twitter.com/ParentingOwl Parenting Owl

    I love how you can give us different perspectives on that child who might generally be viewed as ‘mean’! As you so often point out, whether we let someone else hurt us has much to do with the lense through which we view their behavior.

    Even if your own child isn’t the one whose feelings get hurt, I think it’s important to point out how such comments can affect others. I agree that it can be handled afterward when you have a few moments alone with your child. In my tendency to over-parent I may have been compelled to tell my child and the Sketcher-Lover that this other child may not be wearing Sketchers but she’s still fun to play with and would love to join them! :)

  • Janet Dubac

    The breakdown you gave of why the one little girl was acting mean about the Sketchers was great. It is definitely important to realize that our children are always watching us and learning from our reactions. Being mindful about that will allow you to be a better parent and I think you described that beautifully in this post.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/dominiquegoh Dominique Goh

    It’s not easy to know the right/better way to parent your child but you have sum it beautifully. I too feel that it is important for the kids to be secure of themselves to be able to handle any negativity by other kids.

  • http://www.facebook.com/pamela.rote Pamela Bluehs Rote

    I think with some kids its a combination of what they see and a reaction to how they act—maybe the little Sketchers gal really just likes them because they are so colorful, and liked that your daughter had the same taste—or she might have done something like that before and felt a little powerful turning someone away. Or maybe her parents don’t talk to anyone unless they drive a Lexis~whatever~…we just don’t know, but I like the fact that you waited to talk with your child after and get her take on it—somethimes kids just don’t see actions the way us parents do.

  • http://www.tingsmom.com/ Karen W

    Thank you for this. I worry about my children being the “mean” kids, or other kids being mean to them.

  • http://twitter.com/mail4rosey Rose A

    It’s frightening to send your kids out into the world with people who aren’t so considerate w/them as we are at home. Don’t you just wish everyone would employ The Golden Rule (genius…that little line was).

  • http://twitter.com/Cleansediva Jacqueline Rizk

    Lynn, I think kids have always been mean but these days… they just seem to be taking it to a whole new level of meanness. Almost to the point of violence. It scares me to death that my kids will be exposed to this and me powerless to stop it!

  • kgstyle

    Its sad that it’s starting so young now..I think some of it has to be from what they hear. If their parents are constantly making fun of people….guess what? They’ll do it too.

  • Jennifer Weinbaum

    I think it’s important to also talk with the girls about how this little girl might have felt. Discussing other people’s emotions nurtures empathy–an essential skill to have if you’re going to be inclusive. These girls need to know that their behavior might have hurt the other girls feelings and made her feel sad and left out.

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