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Being Mean

Being Mean

Everyone knows what being mean is. You have either been mean to someone or felt someone be mean to you. Whether it was rolling your eyes at someone or talking about someone, everyone has experienced meanness on some level.  Being mean usually comes from the inability to control your anger.  Anger is a natural human emotion and is nature's way of empowering us to protect ourselves against an attack or threat to our well being. The problem is not anger, but the problem is how the anger is managed. Mismanaged anger and rage is the major cause of conflict in our personal and professional relationships, and often results in people being mean to one another. 

Other names and terms: Anger, aggression, short tempered, hot tempered, mean-spirited

Trends Concerning Mean Behavior

  • In 2007, 5,764 young people ages 10 to 24 were murdered—an average of 16 each day.
  • Homicide was the second leading cause of death for young people ages 10 to 24 years old.
  • Among 10 to 24 year-olds, homicide is the leading cause of death for African Americans; the second leading cause of death for Hispanics; and the third leading cause of death for Asian/Pacific Islanders and American Indians and Alaska Natives.
  • In 2000, 9% of the murders in the U.S. were committed by persons under the age of 18.
  • Suicide is the third leading cause of death among adolescents and teenagers.
  • In 2008, 1,280 juveniles were arrested for murder, 3,340 for forcible rape, and 56,000 for aggravated assault

Key Points of Discussion: Parents, guardians, youth workers, and friends are ideal to help understand and deal with issues involving mean behavior. Listed below are key points that might be useful in discussing mean behavior:

  • Find the root of the anger and meanness. Most people are mean for a reason, but often cannot or will not communicate why they are feeling the way that they do.  Is the student mean because they arejealous of the other person?  Has the other person treated them badly or hurt their feelings before in some type of way? Is there a difference of opinion between the two individuals?  Is there simply a personality clash? It is always important to remember to stay positive while communicating about anger and anger management.  Remember to remind the student that you often get back what you put out and meanness will rebound on you. Instead, learn coping skills let go of anger and resentment; seek professional help for your student, if necessary.
  • Keep other people’s feelings in mind.  Teach children the old saying, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”It might be an old saying, but it stands true, even in today’s world.  Teach children that words can be just as damaging and hurtful as actions.  Make a point to ask students how they might feel if someone did or said something mean or hurtful to them.  
  • Help children develop coping skills.  Even before students get into a situation where they are being mean or someone is being mean to them, have discussions with them about appropriate and inappropriate ways or dealing with certain “mean” situations.  Ask them, “What would you do if…”, “How would you handle it when...”, or “What would you say if…”  Give them appropriate skills to handle those tough situations.  If you need assistance, see your school’s counselor.
  • Don’t judge others.  Teach children to be accepting of their friends.   Remind them that not everyone has the same situation, circumstance, or opportunities that they might have.

Talking to Children:
When talking to children about being mean it is important to discuss several things: feelings, positive behavior, kindness, and choices. Talking to your children about feelings and positive reactions to those feelings will help them create healthy relationships with others.  This is also a perfect time to teach your children about manners, being polite, and treating others the way they would like to be treated.  Anger is usually the feeling associated with being mean to others.  By teaching your children how to be kind to others will show them the importance of having good manners, being considerate of other’s feelings, and to be compassionate toward others. 

  • Talk to your children about anger, and things that can cause them to become angry.  Tell them what anger is.  Explain how anger is just another normal feeling people experience.
  • Things that can cause people to become angry: 
    • hitting,
    • teasing,
    • losing something that belongs to them, etc. 
  • Talk about how they can choose to respond positively when they experience anger: 
    • taking a timeout to be alone,
    • breathing,
    • talking to a friend,
    • writing their feelings in a journal,
    • walking away,
    • drawing,
    • reading, etc.   
  • Talk to your children about being kind, and give your own examples of how you show your kindness, and praise them when you see them doing kind things for others:
    • sharing your belongings with others,
    • cooking for the family,
    • hugging,
    • giving compliments,
    • helping, etc.
  • Talk to them about what feelings they experience when people are mean to them:
    • sadness,
    • loneliness,
    • left out,
    • angry, etc.
  • Teach your child the golden rule, and give them examples: treat others the way you would like to be treated.
    • share with others,
    • do not yell at others,
    • ask for permission before you take something that does not belong to you, etc.

Risk Factors:

  • Violent or aggressive behavior
  • Divorce, poverty, stress, single parenting, unemployment, exposure to violence (whether within the family, community, or media)
  • Genetic

Warning Signs:

  • Extreme anger
  • Frequent outbursts
  • Easily frustrated
  • Easily irritated

Coping Skills and Techniques:

  • Teach your children how to breathe deeply
  • Teach your children how to count to ten when they are angry
  • Encourage your child to do jumping jacks and other exercises
  • Give your child examples of positive self-talk
  • Encourage your children to talk to a friend/adult
  • Suggest to your children to go to a quiet place to calm down