I read your article on ou.org, The Most Effective Way to Stop Rude Behavior in Kids, and I found it very enlightening. I’m not a parent, and so I’m not too sure if I can approach the advice you give in the same way.
Just earlier today, I came home to find three kids from my neighbourhood hanging outside my block. Because of problems, I heard they were no longer allowed in the block. So I said hello, asked them if they were okay, then asked them why they’re not allowed in the block. They said they were, but I said I heard different. They then voiced their opinions about how neighbours have been snitching on them, and how that’s how it is at school. I then reflected their concerns, but didn’t get them to come up with their own solutions.
How can I help these boys become more respectful, not just to me, but to their surroundings? I don’t want to ostracise them, but I don’t want to have to deal with this when they’re 14 and a lot harder to reason with.
Any help will be very useful, because there is almost no information for neighbours on how to help the children in the neighbourhood that are very difficult to deal with.
Thank you for your question. I am not sure I’m 100% clear on what you’re asking, but I’ll try to answer it as best as I can.
I am assuming these children’s parents are not involved.
I think it is amazing that you tried to engage them in a problem solving session. But it is hard to do problem solving with kids if you don’t have a relationship with them. You first need to build trust and good communication skills.
If you can, and it is not dangerous to you, you might want to just get to know them. Ask them about their favorite sports and movies, about what they like to do in their spare time.
Kids like these generally don’t have adults who care about them. If we can show them we care, they may open up. Then we can start asking them questions in a gentle manner: “Why do you think you were asked not to be on this block?” “What do you think you could do so you would be allowed back?” “What do you think the neighbors are upset about?”
Be ready to listen to a lot of denials and accusations: “This neighborhood is so stupid,” and, “We don’t do anything wrong,” and so on.
Then? Just reflect their feelings: “Oh, so you don’t think you did anything wrong.” “You feel like you were treated unfairly.” “You feel like you should be able to go wherever you want to….”
The more you reflect their feelings, the more likely they might start to think:
“Gosh, what do I need to do to get back on the block? What did I do wrong?”
You also need the right setting. Standing around the street does not really lend itself to a problem-solving session. Perhaps you can find a park bench or picnic table somewhere. Plus, by moving them away from the block, you won’t get in trouble with the neighbors. If you want, you can bring snacks–the kids will appreciate it.
This may sound like it requires more effort than you bargained for. Indeed, it’s not a quick fix. The method requires some sort of foundational relationship for the other party to be interested in opening up.
I hope this helped. Good Luck. Please keep in touch and let me know if this works for you.
All my best,
In a parenting rut? Frustrated and out of options? Send your questions to Adina or leave them in the comments below.
Adina Soclof, MS. CCC-SLP, works as a Parent Educator for Bellefaire Jewish Children’s Bureau facilitating How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk workshops as well as workshops based on Siblings Without Rivalry. Adina also runs parentingsimply.com.