What to tell a child when a friend hurts their feelings? Part 1

Last week was not an easy week for Bea.

On Tuesday, when I picked her up, her teacher said, she cried a few times today and she added “I think she is really tired.” So in the car, I asked Bea what happened.  I am not sure if all children react this way, but sometimes, asking Bea that happened when she has had a cry or meltdown takes tons of patience. Sometimes, I picture myself in a CSI situation asking a reluctant witness what has transpired and you have to take your cues from the speech and body language, the pauses so as not to rush the witness which can lead to a clamp down on the incident(s).

So after a lot of:

“It’s okay, if you don’t feel like talking about it but I can’t help you deal with it if you don’t let me know what happened.”

“I think you will feel less sad if you talk about it.”

“I’m your mother and there is nothing you can ever do that you should feel embarrassed about.”

in many variations, I finally got the story out of her.

This is what happened:

After lunch, she wanted to help Fran and Jack (all names have been altered! :))  who were keeping their toys. (They get a 1 hour for lunch, so if they finish eating earlier, they get to play with some toys).  Jack very harshly, told Bea off for helping to keep the toys, since it was he and Fran who started playing first. So Bea  told him, “Alright, I won’t do it ”  and went to a corner to cry. At this point, I think the teacher must have intervened and Jack said sorry but told her off again for not minding her own business. So that’s when she had a meltddown i.e. had a good full blown cry.

After that, she got herself together but obviously was still thinking about it for a while.

Somewhere in her reflection on the incident, she came to the conclusion that she has also broken her promise to her Ah Yee (my sister, Ah Yee is the Cantonese word for Aunt), that she would not loose her temper. (remember the earlier incident, where she kicked the rock? So Ah Yee told her not to get angry at little things. I am not sure if there was a pinky promise involved).  So now, she gets upset with herself, and has another cry because she has broken her promise to her Aunt.

A Secret Letter from Ah Yee

A Secret Letter from Ah Yee


Promise me, you won't get angry at small things...

Promise me, you won’t get angry at small things…


Such a complicated and emotional day for a 6 year old! I would have been overwhelmed myself! I really wondered if this is how office politics start?!!! How do you even begin to address it?!

First things first. a great big hug was called for. After that, some cuddling and kissing thrown in for good measure too.

We sat down, the two of us.

I dealt with the first incident first.

1. Acknowledge what went wrong

M: So Fran and Jack had played together and  they wanted to clear up on their own. Maybe they have their own game where they clear up too. It’s good that you wanted to help and I know you are very helpful. I think most of your school friends would have welcomed your help but maybe Jack likes to do his own clearing up. Perhaps next time, you ask your friends if they need help with clearing up or if they are already playing and you want to join in, you ask first.

B  nods.

Personally, I don’t really like why a child must ask before lending a hand for a simple thing like that. Why are we teaching children to have boundaries for everything, even a kind act? This is my play partner, this is my pile to clear, I have no leeway or considerations for any other person who might change the way I do things… what are we instilling in children?

M: You know, if you felt hurt by Jack saying that he didn’t want your help to clear, you must remember that next time, when you play with your friends and someone wants to join in or help with something, it is okay to let the person join in. It won’t reduce your fun right?

B: Yes..

M: But if you say no, and make a big fuss about it, then, the person will feel hurt. It wasn’t a very nice feeling was it?

B: No… I was very sad.

M: So, remember, don’t do this sort of behavior to other people.

2. Address the second incident

M: Ermm… you know the last cry you had where you were upset that you broke your promise to Ah Yee?

B looks embarrassed.

M: I don’t think you broke your promise. You had a good reason to be upset and perhaps a little angry. I don’t think Ah Yee would think you broke your promise either.  That wasn’t a very nice thing that Jack did.

3. What to do the next time it happens

As a background, from time to time, I volunteer to do an arts and craft session with the kids at Bea’s school. I do it because I enjoy seeing the children having fun and doing something that I like too but one of the things I gain from these sessions, even though they are not that frequent, is that I get to observe the children interacting with each other and with me, so I roughly have an idea what is the predisposition of most of her school friends. I can’t say I know them every well, but I have a rough idea. So I do a series of  leading questions with Bea on Jack’s predisposition. I don’t want to lay it out for her but to teach her to understand and analyse the incident.

M: Does Jack talk like that to all the children?

B: Yes, he does.

M: So it’s not just you that he talks like that to?

B: No, he talks like that to a lot of children. He talks like that to Amelia and she got upset the last time. But he doesn’t talk like that to Fran.

M: Okay, so since he talks like that to a lot of children, you have to try and not let it upset you the next time it happens. I am not his mama, I can’t correct him. What I can do it to teach you how to deal with it when it happens.

You can do a few things:

1. If you want to talk to him, you have to be prepared that sometimes, he will talk to you like that. When it happens, you tell yourself, Jack talks like that to other children too, so don’t let it upset you too much. I know it will not be a nice feeling, but you have to tell yourself that it is not you but him.

2. When it happens, take a deep breath and walk away. Count to ten and then don’t go back to talking to Jack.


Looking at this positively, I hope this will give her some grounding skills on how to deal with difficult people. The truth is, we meet  rude and unpleasant people from time to time, hopefully not all the time like the time I had a really horrible boss which made life a living hell  (but that’s another story!). So, this aspect of life is not something which I can shield her from and it only makes sense to give her coping strategies when it happens.



  1. What to tell a child when their friends hurt their feelings – Part 3 | Royal Rae - August 2, 2014

    […] a few weeks ago, I was writing about how there was this boy, Jack, who had hurt her feelings and then when it happened again, I wrote about a coping strategy I taught […]

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