From time to time, I read some "expert" who says that children should not be made to feel bad about their misbehavior. Little Johnny throws rocks at dogs? Don't make him feel bad! Little Suzy gossips about her friends, and treats others badly? Don't make her feel bad about it!
In order to develop a conscience, one must feel bad when one hurts someone, or does something wrong. If one does not develop a conscience, one is likely to hurt others indiscriminately. When children do something wrong, they should feel bad about it! Not demoralized or stripped of all self-esteem. But we need them to feel sufficiently bad about it so that they develop a conscience, so that they will treat everyone well.
Who does not have a conscience? Sociopaths do not feel bad about hurting people. They don't feel bad about hurting animals. People are just things to them, things to exploit. Is that how we want to raise our children? Without a conscience? To not feel bad when they've hurt someone? Without the pangs of conscience guiding them, they will hurt, exploit, and manipulate others.
When I was a child, and my siblings and I did something wrong, my parents and grandparents definitely made us feel bad about it! We would have been told "I'm disappointed in you" or "I'm ashamed of your" or we have been grounded or even spanked. That didn't make me hate or fear my parents and grandparents. I had a fear of doing wrong, and that developed into being aware that my words and actions could hurt people. I remember when I told a girl in our neighborhood "You can't come to my birthday party!" When my mother heard what I said, my party (cake and lemonade for a few friends) was cancelled. I also had to "face the music" and apologize to the little girl.
If we went back to teaching manners and expecting manners to be used, much of bullying could be stopped at the verbal stage. It is not nice to exclude friends by telling them "You can't play" or "You can't come to my party." It is not nice to lie about friends, gossip about them, spread rumors about them. If we teach, and model, the Golden Rule, much of bullying could be stopped at young ages. Once the snowball starts rolling downhill, it is harder to stop.
Teach your children that excluding others hurts them. While it may not always be possible to include every child, just one should not be left out. And teach children to be discreet, to not discuss their parties where those not invited can hear about it. Talking about an event in front of others who are not invited is not good manners. It is not respectful. It is mean.
Copyright Julie P. Clark 2007
When children hurt someone, they should feel bad about it!