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A Case of the Meanies

Posted by Jen on November 12, 2008 at 7:00 AM in Jen
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mad madeleine

I'm not naming any names, but we've had a case of the meanies over here the last few days. Relentless teasing, borderline cruelty, lots of tattling and very loud complaining that doesn't have much basis in reality as far as I can tell. Could it have anything to do with the fact I'm working around the clock, getting ready to go on a business trip this week?

All excuses aside, we've decided there's no reason to be mean, and we mean it. That means lots 'o drama in this battle over who's more reasonable--the child functioning as prosecutor of all things annoying or the the super mean parents who are saying we don't mean to be mean, but you've gotta chill, girl--and fast!

How do you handle a case of the meanies at your house? Do you chalk it up to a phase? Crack down? Try to be nicer? Freak out? Spend time together? Send everyone to their room? This not-usually-so-mean Mama would love to know.


Naomi writes...

Our littles ... (5 and 2) seem to respond best when I make them hold hands and look at each other .. within minutes (sometimes seconds) they are giggling and back to normal.

Doesn't always work though ... and in that case I just send them to their rooms, yelling at them the whole way.


It's not just your house. Thankfully my teenager seems to mind his manners (for the most part)!

Good luck.

Jeannine writes...

I wish we had this one figured out. My kids are almost six years apart and either hugging each other or strangling each other depending on the moment.

Usually pulling out art supplies works or baking some cookies together. Other times just quite moments alone... with books - helps.

Look forward to hearing some more ideas from other parents.

karen writes...

divert their attention to a big project! assign the project or let them choose one. sometimes the meanies surface when there's a vacuum -- something that usually captivates attention is missing. keep 'em busy is my motto and reward their good deeds.

Rachellle writes...

We usually start talking about treating each other with respect. We do a little role play and see how it feels to be in the other's shoes. Sometimes the meanie then breaks down in tears and the real issue comes out -- which often is that someone is being mean to THEM at school, or that they need more Mama, Papa, or Family Time. Board games ensue.

BTW, it is so Lord of the Flies at my kids' school. Do you have a post for that one??!!

kelly writes...

we haven't reached that phase yet in our house (ours are 23 mos. and 1 mo.), BUT i do remember having the meanies as a girl and wanted to chime in.

for me it was almost always the need to cry out about something troubling going on in my world, whether at home or elsewhere. i was carrying so much that it would come out sideways in the form of the meanies, when what i probably REALLY needed was to have a good cry in someone's lap followed by some special activity designed especially to make me feel important.

unfortunately, i don't think i ever really got this from my parents. i was very articulate and adult-like as a kid and my meanies were sort of sophisticated, so my parents almost always took me literally and viewed my assaults as coming from a peer instead of their child, and they didn't look for my feelings underneath the
meanies. so i usually ended up getting dismissed and/or punished. i think as a result we all missed opportunities for closeness and mutual understanding--opportunities for weaving threads in the fabric of family trust and safety.

this is a great topic--it really got me thinking and helped me remember something i'll stick in my cap for a later date when my kids start to go through this...thank you!

Gail writes...

I tend to separate them for a while, separate rooms in the house. i encourage a break for tea and reading, or tea and ipod, or tea and just sitting with the tea. Tea helps around here a lot! Plus they both are encouraged to write about the situation and their feelings and responses in their journals.

I do think it is helpful to discuss some possible causes: not enough time together at home, around the table, what's going on in their other relationships, the absence of parental involvement in some of their personal stuff, family relationships in general, all of that. Time alone with a parent helps also.

And sometimes we are just having an emotionally challenging day. When the meanies come to our house to visit. Then the meanies are invited to go back to wherever they live again so we can get back to our lives.

I hope it doesn't last long.
And, by all means, enjoy your trip.

Jennifer writes...

When I start to notice that someone is really not acting themselves, whether meanness, excessive whining, extreme pessimism I look at how present I've been with the kids. Very often just a wee bit of attention fixes them right up. Of course it is hard to make sure everyone gets what they need (including mama!) and sometimes they do just have to wait.

I hope the rest of your trip prep went ok and that the meanies take a hike.

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