First of, thanks for the previous Anonymous's comment about my approach. It is right on.
The general rule is that we should only help people who cannot help themselves. If a child is intellectually capable of learning how to solve their problem, we are hurting them by protecting them from the problem rather than teaching them how to understand and solve the problem on their own.

Most disabled children can be taught to respond very simply and effectively to those who put them down. If my IQ is 60 and you call me a "retard," I can answer very simply, "You are so lucky you are smart." If I am confined to a wheelchair and you call me a "cripple," I can respond, "I wish I could walk and run like you can." These responses make the insulters feel like jerks, but also makes them feel compassion for me. And even if the insulter doesn't feel compassion for me, I don't have to be upset by it. No one is perfect. I can't walk or think well; you can't feel compassion.

Another very simple and effective way that almost anyone can be taught to reply is taught by Bill Cosby in his book for young kids, The Meanest Thing to Say. Just say, "So?" to every insult. Before long the insulter feels like a fool and stops.

Certainly, It is worthwhile to teach kids in school that life isn't fair...that some people are dealt a bad hand in life, and that we need to have compassion for those less fortunate and to help them do things they can't do for themselves. We should teach people that if we insult others, we are not helping them but hurting them. We wouldn't want others to humiliate us because of our imperfections; neither should we humiliate them for theirs. It helps to teach that people will like and respect us much more if we are nice to people than if we are mean. This has been important in the past and it is still important.

But is not our responsibility to force everyone to take our good advice and to punish them when they don't. People should be punished for committing crimes, not for being fools or jerks. There are natural consequences for such behaviors.

Society, including schools, has in fact been teaching kids that it is important to be nice to others. What is missing from this education is, "What should we do when people are MEAN to us?" That's the hard part. And that's what the Golden Rule comes to teach us: to be nice to people even when they are mean to us.

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