There is no more important a task than helping our kids cope in a world that can sometimes be unkind. But first, we have to learn how to do it ourselves. It’s difficult to let go of what someone says or does. We can start by realizing that to be bothered or unbothered is a choice. Both options affect how an unkind act is handled now and determine how you are likely to deal with future encounters.
Before you make the assumption than being unbothered means to be uncaring or apathetic, consider an analogy. Say that while on your way to a very important meeting, you get a flat tire. There are two ways to handle it: you can become agitated and fix your flat, or simply fix your flat. Either way, a necessary action is taken. The outcome is the same: you arrive late to your meeting. But do you arrive frazzled or composed?
When it comes to how people treat us, the idea is the same. We do not have to let people walk all over us, but we don’t have to be bothered by it, either. We can allow the situation to help us practice maintaining our peace of mind, something that the unkind person was unable to do. This, by the way, tends to evoke compassion for the offender. You then simply deal with the event.
Help your child build self-confidence by resisting the temptation to become angry or sad when someone has been unkind. Children take cues from us, and assume that our responses are appropriate. If the adult is sad, they become sad. If we are angry, they become angry. These lessons are deeply engrained, and similar future events will trigger the same emotion in them, long into their adulthood.
Talk to your child. Be open about the circumstance, helping them to see that we cannot control what others say or do, especially after the fact. Assure them there is no reason to be alarmed. Agitation tends to linger inside us, and can lead to nightmares or trepidation about a future encounter. Just like in the flat tire analogy, your child’s future moments are deeply affected by the quality of his or her present moment. Create a course of action that comes out of a calm state of mind. Model how to get creative in handling things so the event fades from memory more quickly.
We gain nothing by being bothered by unkind people. In reframing what has happened, we convey a valuable lesson to children: opinions of us are none of our business and words or actions do not have to affect us. OUR business is to be aware of OUR thoughts, OUR words, OUR actions. Teaching kids to not be bothered by cruelty does more than provide coping skills; it cultivates calmness, confidence, compassion, and creativity.