After snatching the last cookie out of her little sister’s hands, your 10-year-old daughter hit her sister when you asked her to return the cookie. Instead of apologizing when you asked her to, she threw the cookie to the ground and stormed out of the room. Such behavior can be frightening for you as a parent. You may think that you are raising a monster and feel unsure how to react to a child who misbehaves without remorse. After such an incident, take a few minutes to collect yourself and then speak to your child.
Keep your cool. Dealing with a child who doesn’t seem to recognize that she did something wrong can be frustrating. Resist the urge to yell or speak harshly to your child. Under no circumstances should you spank a child as doing so only teaches her to use violence to solve problems, Maia Szalavitz writes in a 2010 Time magazine article, “How Not to Raise a Bully: The Early Roots of Empathy.”
Empathize with your child. Explain to her that you understand that she was angry because her sister got the last cookie. According to the Time article, when you help a child recognize her emotions when she misbehaves, she will be more likely to understand those emotions the next time they occur.
Ask the child to put herself in the other person’s shoes. She may not be sorry she stole the cookie or hit her sister because she may not be thinking of how she would feel if those things happened to her. Asking a child how she thinks the other felt helps her to build empathy.
Ask your child to evaluate her actions to determine whether they were correct and fair. If she insists that her behavior was totally in-line, ask her why she thinks so.
Work toward getting the child to be willing to fix the situation. She doesn’t necessarily have to apologize, but she should think of ways to right the wrong she did. Brainstorm with her ways to make her little sister feel better.
- Some children have disorders, such as Asperger’s syndrome that prevent them from being able to empathize with others. If nothing seems to work with your child, you may want to take her to see a psychologist to rule out any problems.