Teaching Kids to Get Along With All Kinds of People

Teaching Kids to Get Along With All Kinds of People

One mom explores how to teach her kids to deal with all kinds of people and personalities.

By: Leah Maxwell

What do you do when one of your dearest friends has a child you or your kids don’t get along with? What if you have no interest in hanging out with the parents of your kids’ best friends? With my oldest starting a new school this week, these are the anxious thoughts running through my head as we stand at the edge of a whole new social pool, wondering whether we’ll sink or swim.

So far, my husband and I have really connected with a handful of other school parents, and while the freewheeling part of my brain has run off into a fantasyland of backyard barbecues and weekend camping trips and many, many years of happy family togetherness, the rational part reminds me about one major factor: I haven’t met their kids yet. What if they’re hitters or backtalkers or “mean girls”? What if my kid doesn’t get along with them? What if I don’t get along with them?

I asked some friends who have been there, done that, and the responses were mostly what I’d feared: you just have to tough it out and hope it gets better over time. Maybe the kids will grow and change. Maybe once you get to know them, they aren’t as bad as you first thought.

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Depending on the situation, though, there are some workable options for avoiding forced interactions with people who, well, aren’t your favorite.

Opt for parents-only outings. If you really connect with a parent but your kids don’t hit it off, set up adults-only get-togethers. After all, the kids “see each other at school all the time,” right? Make it about the grown-ups having a chance to talk.


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Opt for kids-only playdates. If your kid is great friends with a schoolmate whose parent you don’t particularly enjoy, this is the perfect time to tap into the magic of the drop-off playdate, which has the bonus effect of making you look extra generous, as you’re giving the other parent some coveted kid-free time. Who would complain about that?

Model good behavior and hope it rubs off. If you simply can’t avoid your friend’s poorly behaved kid, then use these times for teachable moments. That child’s behavior can serve as an example to your child of how not to act. And maybe, just maybe, the other parent will start to use your child’s behavior to teach hers how to act better. Of course, no guarantees on this one…

Model tolerance for your kids. Of course, all this plotting and planning might work wonders if you truly want to avoid a difficult person, yet the real opportunity here is to teach our children by example. Parenting is about modeling good behavior, and if I expect my kids to be kind, tactful, and tolerant when faced with people they might not like, the best I can do is show them how. My goal as a parent isn’t to protect my kids from difficult situations or people but to prepare them to handle themselves well in those circumstances. Instead of focusing our efforts on avoiding people we don’t like, it’s much more valuable (albeit, yes, a little more uncomfortable) to learn to get along with all types of people, a skill that benefits everyone and is useful in navigating all areas of life, from elementary school friends and coworkers to in-laws and the person in the next seat on a transcontinental flight.

In the end, teaching our kids to be tolerant, thoughtful, and generous with their friendship is part of raising good people. It’s a worthy effort all around and one that will reap benefits for years to come. And also? Modeling that behavior is really good practice for us as adults, who know all too well that life can be full of people who are not our favorites.

Have you ever been in one of these situations? How did you handle it?

Leah Maxwell is a book editor, freelance writer, cereal addict, wife, and mom to two small boys. She has been blogging at A Girl and a Boy since 2003.

Image ©iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages

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