A mother recently shared that another child was mimicking her daughter’s speech. She admitted that her daughter’s speech is sometimes hard to understand, but nonetheless, she was upset by this.
I certainly understand a knee-jerk reaction of wanting to shield and protect our kids from such negative interactions. But since we cannot control what others say and do, I actually find such situations to be . . . unexpected gifts.
How can that be? Well, it gives us a chance (as parents) to teach our kids how to respond when others aren’t acting in ways we perceive to be kind or understanding. In truth, we all continue to experience such unpleasantness throughout our lives. So why not help our kids build effective brain maps right now—when they are young—so that such negativity doesn’t throw them off balance, now or later.
For example, we can teach our kids not to cringe or withdraw or even judge the person who wasn’t responding as we’d like.
We do this by role-playing what our child might say to shift the spotlight back on that person who initiates the negativity.
For example, in this case, our child might say: “I was wondering why you’re imitating how I speak.”
With that single comment, we empower our child how to quickly redirect the focus back to the other person, as well as teach her to ask others to clarify their intent. Wouldn’t that be a helpful brain map to have throughout life?
Or, our child could ask: “How were you hoping I’d respond when you imitate how I speak?”
Again, this comment puts the spotlight back on that person—so that he’s the one on center-stage and is now the person who has to come up with a response.
Of course, it’s unlikely the child will say something as direct as, “Well, I was hoping you’d cry because I’m mean.” But even if the child says that, then this immediately erases any doubt the comment was really about him—and not our child.
But more likely, the response will be something along the lines of, “Uh, I don’t know” or “I just thought it was funny.”
So we teach our child to follow up (regardless of what the person says) with only this short sentence: “Thanks for sharing that.”
Nothing more needs to be said because our child has already accomplished the original goal: She has nicely shifted that she, not the other child, has been in control of this interaction.
Or, our child can even just say from the get-go: “Thanks for giving me feedback that it’s sometimes hard to understand my speech. Good to know that I’m working hard at building highways in my brain so that it will be easier to understand me.”
It’s irrelevant whether or not the other child processes that message. When our child says this truth aloud, it reminds her why her speech may seem unintelligible to others—and that it won’t be that way forever.
So, while it sounds odd, kids making fun of other kids can actually be a wonderful gift—if we choose to view it that way. In fact, all challenges are really just opportunities (in disguise) to learn.