How to correct social meanness in adolescents

Adolescents can be mean and nasty. They can bully their peers, resort to name-calling and act in a very derisive manner. Such behaviour is unacceptable but yet remains common. How do parents and teachers handle such behaviour? What techniques can be used to correct bullying and threatening in teens?

People often talk about their school days as being the best days of their life. For most of us, school days carry beautiful memories, of friends and good times. That, sadly, is not always the case. The fact is that for many students, school ushers in the most traumatic experiences. They become victims of attacks by other children - verbal attacks, isolation and bullying etcetera. For them, school life holds nothing but bad memories.

Children it is said are innocent and pure, true that, but children can also be very nasty in their behaviour towards their peers. The level of meanness, which some children exhibit, is awful, and it gets worse in the adolescent age.

Nasty behaviour is not restricted to a particular segment of students - even 'good kids' from 'cultured families' can act mean and horrible. Bullying, ganging up, teasing, rumouring and isolating are all types of mean behaviour, which adolescents practice, without realising the impact of their words and actions, on other kids. Mean behaviour goes unnoticed, but it is present in every classroom, on every playground, in every school bus.

Adults, in charge, see it and ignore it, not because they do not want to intervene, but because they often do not see it as unusual. After all, mean behaviour has always been around, and since there was never an objection to it, adults let it pass off as normal behaviour. But, is it normal behaviour? Can behaviour that brings another child down, ever be normal?

Decoding mean and nasty behaviour in adolescents

Before I discuss the reasons why adolescents are nasty it must be made known that they do not understand the implications of what they are doing. For the most part, it is fun. Though ironically, fun at the expense of someone else is never a nice thing, is something they do not realise.

Coming to why adolescents behave in a manner that is unbecoming of the innocent tag that they carry. They get to an age where they can sense change. It is an age where they begin to realise that they are individuals. They want to break away from the parental control and express their own individuality. It's a difficult and daunting challenge – because it's not going to happen, not in the near future at least. They look for a release from all that holds them and find a sense of belonging among their peers, who are in the same boat, facing the same struggles.

It is one of those vicious circles that they inadvertently become part of. It becomes important for them to make friends and sustain those friendships. Their world revolves around their social alignments and they come under a great deal of pressure to hold on to their social standing. It is a ruthless world, and there is a constant fear of being alienated. Adolescents want to fit in and they want to remain part of groups that they are in, even if it means behaving in ways that are unacceptable. Their behaviour is guided by peer pressure and they inflict verbal and physical attacks on the most vulnerable. It is doing what the pack does.

Parents role in curbing ruthless adolescent behaviour

Parents are too trusting of their children and often fail to read signs that indicate their children's social behaviour towards other children. The 'my child cannot behave like this' is too deeply ingrained in parents for them to even consider the fact that their children might actually be erring. Let's face it, don't we all credit our children for more than they are worth. A ruthless statement, but it's true – most parents do not imagine bad behaviour from their kids. When a child is caught doing something wrong no parent turns around and says I knew it. Their first reaction, is generally of disbelief - 'it cannot be' or 'my child could never do it'.

And yet I say parents are in the know; they only do not know how to read the signs. Or maybe they do not want to read them. Children have a tendency to brag – and when they speak of another child in a disdainful manner, it's time for the parents to raise their antenna. A little prodding is all that is needed to get teens to speak about what is happening. They inadvertently spill the beans – about the name calling and the bullying and all the horrible stuff that they are a part of. It is at this juncture that parents must act, use their influence to guide their child in doing what is right. Parents can curb all the nastiness that exists in so-called 'safe havens'.

Recommended reading: How to handle bad behaviour in children

Handling typical adolescent behaviour

The first step is for parents to stop being in denial. Your perfect little angel can be quite the devil. They need to be told that bullying, ganging up, teasing, rumouring and isolating are traits of socially aggressive behaviour. Such behaviour might appear normal because children make it seem like fun and harmless, but it never is. It is only when parents recognise their child's behaviour as bad behaviour can they act to rectify it. Here is why such behaviour is unacceptable –

  • Bullying: Is the nastiest behaviour among teens - it is aggressive, it is hurtful and it is intimidating. The bully controls through terror tactics and often succeeds, because of sheer physical strength or strength of numbers
  • Ganging up: This is when children form a gang that bullies others. The gang could target a single child or a group of children. They act as a group and they have each other's back, which actually eggs them to get viler
  • Teasing: Name-calling, ridiculing particular personal characteristics such as colour or accent, or social attributes such as clothes, lunch box etcetera all amount to teasing
  • Rumouring: Spreading false information through gossip to malign another's reputation
  • Isolating: This happens when a group of adolescents exclude other kids from activities. Imagine being the only one not being invited to a birthday party, while the rest of the class is

This kind of behaviour impacts those who are targeted. It hurts and it injures and causes a deep damage to their psyche. Children at the receiving end lose confidence and live in fear. Children reportedly refuse to go to school, their grades drop and they get nervous and go into a shell. Such students can also go into depression and become suicidal.

Such behaviour affects the perpetrators as well, albeit in different ways, for left unchecked they become emboldened and brazen and begin to act defiantly. They get a sense of supremacy over everyone else and this can lead to some serious implications.

How can teachers help

The role of the school and teachers is important in curtailing such behaviour. Oppressive behaviour should not be tolerated and schools must take extra precautions to nip bad behaviour in the bud. Ignored, it can escalate. Schools also have a responsibility towards all students. The schools must ensure that they provide a healthy environment where all students, can exist, without fear or prejudice.

Schools and teachers can address the issue through regular sessions that focus on bad behaviour. Openly discussing why such behaviour is offensive sends a clear message. Reacting after incidents are reported is not the way to go about this common teenage problem. Educating teens brings positive results.

Simple yet effective ways to control erring adolescent behaviour –

Dealing with bullying

Teens who bully others feel like a tyrant king of a dominion. Spreading fear gives a certain kind of high. Such behaviour can be stopped by initiating discussions where the entire class participates. A string of thought provoking questions can be posed to the group –

  • How would you react if you see your sibling being pushed around?
  • How do bossy people behave?
  • How would it feel to be threatened and intimidated?

Steer the conversation to the negative impact this has on those subjected to bad behaviour. Connect how the group feels about how someone being bullied would feel. The lessons to teach here are, you don't bully others to get what you want, nor do you intimidate or frighten others. These are social experiments that send a message that if it's not right for you, it cannot be right.

Recommended reading: How to deal with a child's tantrum

Lessons against ganging up

While it's fine to move around with like minded people, it becomes a problem when the group begins to dominate others. Being stronger or being more in number or being abler than others can result in a show of superiority. This can lead to an aggressive, domineering behaviour, with the group wanting to control others.

It is best to discuss the influence of such behaviour. How wrong it is and how it coerces and represses those weaker or in the minority. The focus must be on the ills of such behaviour and how ganging up is not a socially accepted behaviour.

Teasing is not fun

We don't flinch when calling someone fat or stupid or ugly. But, doing so showcases our biases. In tagging others, we display a lack of respect. Stress on these factors to highlight how teasing is not fun. Demonstrate how it is always nice to call people by their names or socially accepted nicknames. Giving hurtful labels to people is mean.

Rumour mongering defames others

Spreading false statements and gossiping ruins reputations. Give real life examples from history, of how rumours affected people. Speak of the social implications that this can have. Ask probing questions on how the group would feel if they were being talked about. Encourage children to not spread gossip about others, even if they hear it from a reliable source. We don't talk bad of people, should be the lesson.

Isolation is discriminatory

Letting someone know through words and/or action that they do not belong is rude and cruel. How would the members of the group feel if they are ostracised? Teach children to get others into their fold and to be more social and accepting of others.

Final word of advice

The aim of classroom discussions and parental guidance should be to bring home the point that social meanness is never good and that it should not be practised. The key point for parents and teachers to pick up is that they should get involved to ensure that youngsters do not indulge in mean behaviour.

Article by Juana
Juana is a freelance writer, with years of experience, creating content for varied online portals. She holds a degree in English Literature and has worked as a teacher and as a soft skill trainer. An avid reader, she writes on a variety of topics ranging from health, travel, education and personality development.

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Author: K Mohan12 May 2017 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 0

Adolescent age in a boy or girl is most challenging period for them and also to the parents. Nurturing children up to the age of 10 to 12 may be easy. The real challenge starts from 12 to 19 years which are more crucial as children learn about the life, the creation of life, the enjoyment one gets through having interaction with opposite sex and the zest to test something new is always lingering in their mind. The hormonal changes in boys and girls would certainly tempt them to behave strangely. They may abstain from studies, they want to have relations with opposite gender, they want to touch and feel the excitement and all these goes on without the knowledge of parents and thus the school teacher, the parents and the well wishers of the child must have a eye on them so that nothing goes wrong. A adolescent child is tempted to know the secret and purpose of existence and if that could be told in a polished way by the parent, surely nothing wrong would happen. As far as possible the child must be kept away from social media, television and their total attention should be on studies . But that is not possible these days as the children have the ways and means to deceive the parents and win the situation. So little control over them is always advisable and needed.

Author: Juana12 May 2017 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 2


Thank you for your posting your comment, but what does it have to do with mean behaviour? I do not think you have read the article. It appears that the answer is posted in response to just one word in the title - and that word is 'adolescent'. I request you to please read through articles before posting your comments.

For your information, I'll make the content concise. The article discusses social meanness witnessed in adolescents and ways to handle it. Social meanness does not translate into hormones and sexual attraction, and pleasures and fantasies. It means social behaviour towards peers.

Behaviour such as bullying, targeting individuals, teasing, rumour mongering etcetera is discussed in the article, with suggestions to parents and teachers on how to educate students to behave better.

Author: DR.N.V. Srinivasa Rao12 May 2017 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 5

Good Article by Ms.Juana. Parents and teachers should be watching their children very carefully. Adolescents will be like other similar nature persons more and make friendship with them. They all will be having fun in fooling other children. They don't understand the impact of this on other persons. They think their friends are everything for them. But this they will not show up before their parents. So parents will be thinking their children are innocents.

Pandavas and Kauravas studied under the same guru. They were in their teenage. Bhima was very strong. He was teasing Kauravas by hitting, throwing them from trees etc. Dharmaja was advising him not to go for such acts. But he never cared. Finally one day, somehow Kauravas managed to mix poison in the food of Bhima. He had that food and was out of conscious. Then Kauravas threw him into the river. But Bhima luckily survived and got blessings from nagalokam kings. This is the beginning of the rivalry between Pandavas and Kauravas.
So parents and teachers should kerb this kind of activities in their early stages.

Author: Juana13 May 2017 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 4

Good example Srinivasa Rao. It just goes to prove that this kind of behaviour is not uncommon in adolescents. It had been prevalent even in ancient times.

The seeds of discipline are sown at home. Parents being the child's first teacher should ensure that they pass on the right values in their children. Not all children behave badly, it is just a handful and my experience as a teacher tells me that parents are somehow to be blamed for the lack of discipline in their children. They must be more involved in their children's lives - know what is happening and how they are behaving with their peers.

Teachers can do only this much, the rest of the disciplining must come from home. The problem arises when parents refuse to see the wrongs of their erring children. This makes children brazen and they stop valuing others and refuse to conform. They have a support system, in their parents, backing them.

Parents must change the way they raise their kids. Discipline is inculcated at home. Only then it remains part of a child's ethos.

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