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Mistreating Peers or Siblings

Teasing or Calling Others Names

  • Examples

    Calling a child who is not good in school "dummy," one who is not athletic "clumsy," or one who has a bedwetting problem "smelly." These derogatory comments can be harmful to the self-esteem, especially if they are true.

  • The rule

    "Teasing and name-calling are not allowed, because they are unfair and hurt someone's feelings."

  • Discipline technique

    Immediate time-out.

  • Model

    Parents should avoid teasing as well.

Telling on Others (Tattling)

  • Description

    Children report their siblings' or others' misbehavior to get them into trouble, a form of one-upmanship.

  • The rule

    "Don't tell me about your brother's misbehavior unless it's dangerous. It hurts your friendship." This rule is based on the premise that bad news gets around, and if it's important, you'll hear about it.

  • Discipline technique

    Give verbal disapproval, "I don't want to hear about it." You can also remind your child, "Tattletales don't have friends," and "Brothers are supposed to stand up for each other."

  • Praise

    Praise your child for looking after, standing up for, or telling you something good about his sibling or friend.

  • Model

    Be supportive of others and avoid gossip.

Taking Toys Away from Others

  • The rule

    "Don't grab toys that other people are playing with."

  • Discipline technique

    Use logical consequences and return the toy immediately to the child who owns it or had it. Never let the aggressive child keep a toy he or she has taken away. If the misbehavior recurs, use time-out.

  • Praise

    Praise your child for asking another child if he or she may use a toy, and also for returning a toy when requested.

Not Sharing Toys

  • Premise

    Children can't be expected to share toys until age 3 or 4. Generosity has to be the child's decision. But you can plant the idea with statements such as, "If you share with other children, they will usually share with you."

  • Discipline technique

    A child should not be punished for not sharing his or her toys. Some problems can be prevented by allowing your child to take only one toy to the playground until she reaches an age where she can share. When she's not playing with her toy, pick it up so that other children won't take possession of it. For toys that belong to the family rather than an individual, temporarily put them away if two children can't take turns with them.

  • Praise

    Praise your child for any sharing. Encourage your child to share.

  • Model

    Share in your home. Share your food, drink, and possessions with your child. Lend household items to friends. Mention to your child that this is sharing.

Being a Poor Friend or Sport

  • Examples

    Some children are bossy and dominant with their friends, causing the friends to leave unhappily. Others show off so much that their friends find them boring. Others are poor sports or bad losers and try to change the rules of a game or sport.

  • Discipline technique

    Natural consequences. Peer pressure will eventually shape your child's behavior into what is acceptable in the peer group. In the meantime your child will lose some friends until he or she has learned how to treat other children better. Occasionally ask your child, "What could you do to be a better friend?" Overall, let peers work out these disagreements themselves.

  • Praise

    Praise your child for being courteous, agreeable, and a good sport about losing.

  • Model

    Stop being critical and bossy of your child if this applies. Don't argue with referees at your child's athletic events.

Written by Barton D. Schmitt, MD, author of “My Child Is Sick,” American Academy of Pediatrics Books.
Pediatric Advisor 2013.2 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2002-01-07
Last reviewed: 2012-05-14
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2013 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
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