Below is a summary of my take aways from: Mean Girls (and Boys!): Why Young Children Act In Unkind Ways and How To Help, Claire Lerner, LICSW - Early Childhood Webinars
My favorite slides are here:
I am grateful to the Early Years staff, who shared this video with me, and recommended that I take action, "don't just hope next year will be better, make some changes now to give your child a better start" she said, and we did. When speaking with the mom of a child who regularly made things hard for our child was met with resistance, we sought counseling from Reach Out Center For Kids to give our child some strategies to try, we requested the aforementioned child be placed in a different class, and we met with our child's new teacher and principal early on in the year, so they could understand why our child struggled so much last year, and what kind of support would minimize the struggle going forward. So far so good.
The talk above shares that kids who are mean (or who use relational aggression) know what is right and wrong (so empathy training is not what they need), they will tell you correctly what is right and wrong, they know how the other feels, but they do things that are wrong (sometimes in a very sneaky way that follows the "rules" of "being nice") because they are insecure, have self-doubt, feel uncomfortable with the complexity of group dynamics, experienced a loss of power at home (i.e., the birth of a younger sibling), are highly sensitive and feel so out of control on the inside, so they are very controlling on the outside to try to gain more predictability, by bossing others around and making threats to tell the teacher. They fear rejection and are flooded with shame, so they behave in ways that we may find appalling, this triggers us, and they don't know how to change.
Also from the talk: they need non-judgmental empathy, they know when they are not liked by their teacher, telling kids how to feel is a losing battle, we need to allow them to need what they need. Lay some ground rules for group and solo activities, narrate what happened to them, and ask questions about how they think the other felt, and what they think they could have done. We need to be a good listener, reflect back how they feel, help them think it through and gain the skills, not tell them what to do. Show them that we care deeply about them and about things working out well. Get them to see their need and the needs of the others, and what their choices are. Unless the child is actively running away or hurting someone, it is ok to take a moment to think about how to approach the situation and it is ok to repair mistakes made in the past. This teaches self-regulation.
For another perspective, here are some quotes from Marshall Rosenberg (founder of Non Violent Communication), who talks about using giraffe language (because giraffes have big hearts), in a society that tends to speak in jackal language:
From our Human Designs, I knew our eldest would teach me in an intellectual way, our middle would teach me through the heart, and our youngest would teach me through others. Our kids also have their natal moons in different astrological signs, so in essence, to them, I am destined to be 3 different moms. For my eldest, I will be a slippery fish, spiritual but hard to hold onto (Pisces). For my middle, I will see the fake mask and the ugliness that people are trying to hide (Gemini). And for my youngest, I will learn to be more balanced and fair (Libra).
I hope this helpful for some.