What should I do if my child acts insensitively to others?

Michele Borba
Whenever your child displays insensitivity, be sure to explain why you consider the child’s behavior to be unacceptable and “insensitive.” Simply explain what concerns you about the behavior, and how you feel about uncaring actions. This is the moment you make sure your child clearly understands what is wrong about the behavior, and why you disapprove. And you’ve helped your child shift his focus from himself to considering how his actions can impact other people.

“I’m very concerned when I see you treating your friends without considering their feelings. You may not treat people unkindly.”
“That was insensitive: I expect you to treat your friends the same way you’d want to be treated.”

If your child continues to display insensitivity towards others’ feelings, then it’s time to set a consequence. Remember, consequences must be meaningful, appropriate to the child’s age and temperament, and “fit the crime.” The best consequences for insensitivity are also authentic ways for the child to make amends. For example, forbid your child from playing with a friend until your child understands he must treat others kindly. Your rule is: “If you can’t treat people nicely, you can’t play.”

Another option is to demand your child apologize sincerely to the recipient. This might be drawing or writing an apology or apologizing in person or with a phone call.

And keep on in your quest! Find those day-to-day moments to boost your child’s sensitivity. It’s our surest answer to reducing peer cruelty and making the world a kinder and more caring place.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.