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Why Are Kids Mean?

Why Are Little Kids So Mean (and How Can We Stop Them)?

Is your little girl forming special clubs during recess? Does your son intentionally leave classmates off his birthday invite list? They could be instigators of relational aggression, a new form of bullying that has young children feeling left out and alone.

More under the radar than physical, verbal, and cyber bullying, relational aggression involves the threat of social exclusion. This can range from a child telling classmates not to play with a peer to not inviting them to a party. Although this type of behavior is commonly found in middle school students, recent research has found it occurring more often in children between the ages of 3 and 5 years old.

"It actually works so well because of the child's limited cognitive abilities," Jamie Ostrov, an associate professor of psychology at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York, tells The Wall Street Journal. While the problem is seen in both genders, researchers find that girls tend to be more affected by it.


Several schools have taken steps to take control of relationalaggression. Some have started programs that teach students how to empathize with one another as well as stand up for themselves. But that may not be enough. Laura Barbour, a counselor at Stafford Primary School in Oregon, says parents and schools also need to emphasize inclusion.

"Kids forget about scuffles on the playground," she tells The Wall Street Journal. "But they don't forget about unkind words or being left out."

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Join The Conversation
LindaKnacke LindaKnacke 3 years

For their children being awful.

LindaKnacke LindaKnacke 3 years

I agree. I notice this daily!

LindaKnacke LindaKnacke 3 years

If a child acts like this most likely you can look at the parents and see where they got it. I am an "older" mom and do notice the how the younger generation seems to be socially crippled. Not sure why, maybe too many texts, emails and not enough real conversation. Didn't really notice so much with my older child.

JamesPerley1398530169 JamesPerley1398530169 3 years

Our son was excluded from a "club" in third grade, so he gathered some like himself, and they formed their own "club." The teacher stopped all of the "clubs" when she found out. "Clubs" and exclusion are part of growing up, but they might evolve into something worse.

As we know cyber bullying is also problem. A New Zealand girl made a One Direction fan video which dramatizes bullying and the toll it takes on its victims. One Direction-Diana (fan made video) YouTube No one will probably check, but maybe older children might think twice about following that road if they saw the hear ache it can cause.

CarmelaCardwell1374774425 CarmelaCardwell1374774425 3 years

I agree 100% with you.

TonyaGilstrap1395234244 TonyaGilstrap1395234244 3 years

Im gonna say being bullies themselves & teaching their kids their ugly ways. Kids arent just mean just because, its taught.

NicoleFoster17725 NicoleFoster17725 3 years

Blame them for what?

ChrisHenning1389226800 ChrisHenning1389226800 3 years

Funny, I'm reading this article and this same thing happened to my son this week at preschool. I agree that my kid doesn't have to be invited to all of his school friend's parties, what I don't agree with is that kid telling my kid in a mean tone that he isn't invited and taunting him with it. These kids are 4 and 5, seems kinda young to be so mean.
Most importantly, I'm teaching my son that he won't always get an invitation to all parties and I'm also teaching him that we can't invite everyone to his party either and he needs to not talk about it at school so that he doesn't hurt anyone's feelings. Being kind is important to us:)

TonyaGilstrap1395234244 TonyaGilstrap1395234244 3 years

I blame permissive parents for this one. Stop being the cholds friend & scared of disciplining them.whose the parent is the question. Spoil a child u get all the consequences from sparing that rod. Be firm & stick to it no natter what.

KathrynQUick1376240853 KathrynQUick1376240853 3 years

I agree about needing to put a stop to kids telling other kids not to play with someone but the birthday party thing? That's ridiculous. Although the party invites should be given to the invited children discreetly by the parent(s), not every kid "needs" to be invited. First of all, not every family can afford to throw a party with 25-30 kids to entertain and feed. Secondly, why force our children to include kids that they don't enjoy being with? Also, I believe that the sooner kids learn that they won't always be invited to everyone's party, the better. It's a reality that parents need to help their children understand in a way that's age appropriate and kind.

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