How to Build Courage and Help Your Child Understand When Other Kids Laugh
One of the most heartbreaking moments for any parent is realizing that other kids have laughed at your child. Whether you witness such an event, or your child tells you about it, and whether the laughter is intentional or not, this situation can bring up feelings of helplessness, confusion, and resentment for everyone. The good news is that you, as a parent, have the opportunity to help your child navigate these circumstances and feelings with courage and resilience.
Why Children Laugh
Children often have difficulty with subtlety and empathy. This can result in them reacting to situations with laughter rather than a more considerate or delicate response. In the moment, it may not occur to a child or group of children to thoughtfully overlook a mistake or different behavior by one of their peers. In addition, most children lack the capacity to empathize with the person on the receiving end of laughter—especially in the moment.
Here are some reasons why children may laugh at another child:
- Something appears to them as funny or different
- They feel compelled to join others who are laughing
- The situation makes them feel awkward or embarrassed
- They don’t know how else to react
- This behavior is modeled for them at home as appropriate
- They are concerned they will also be laughed at by others
Though this doesn’t make the situation right, having a sense of understanding why children laugh at others can help you maintain perspective. Their laughter toward your child may seem malicious, but it’s possible, and quite likely, that their laughter stems from something other than intended harm.
Acknowledge Your Child’s Feelings
Undoubtedly, your child will feel a range of emotions due to the laughter of other kids. They may feel embarrassed, angry, confused, hurt, disappointed, and more. Rather than advising your child not to think about what happened or any other strategy to repress their feelings, encourage your child to express their thoughts to you. And when they do, be sure to acknowledge that you understand how and why they feel that way. This acknowledgement of their feelings not only validates the experience for your child, but it also empowers them to overcome it through safe expression.
It’s absolutely essential that you do not overtly or indirectly make your child feel blame or shame that other kids laughed at something about them. Your child, just as any other kid, has the right to be who they are without ridicule. Therefore, it’s important not to accuse them, explicitly or implicitly, of being too “different” or “weird.” Giving them the message that they should conform in some way to avoid laughter from their peers is a confusing and potentially dangerous precedent to set.
What Not to Say or Do
Of course, as a parent, it can be difficult to overcome your own disappointment, anger, and confusion at what your child experienced if a group of other kids laughed at them. This can lead to parents saying or doing things that are either unhelpful or lead to even more confusion. Therefore, it’s advisable to consider what not to say or do.
There is a trite old saying that people are “laughing with you, not at you.” Though this may sound like it would be comforting to repeat to your child, this saying really doesn’t help because even young kids are smart enough to know the difference.
It’s also best to avoid telling your child to “shake it off,” “toughen up,” or “ignore it next time.” These suggestions aren’t healthy coping mechanisms in the long run, and they don’t tend to work in the moment.
Finally, you shouldn’t teach your child to “laugh right back” at the group of children involved. That can escalate the situation and create even more confusion and hurt feelings. In addition, that response only reinforces a nonproductive reaction that can be seen as confrontational.
What You Can Do to Help Your Child Build Courage and Cope with Other Kids’ Laughter
Parents should try to remember that kids are pretty resilient. They often forget slightly negative experiences pretty quickly and it’s rare for them to hold grudges. Chances are that your lingering feelings about your child’s experience will outlast theirs. However, it’s worth turning this experience into an opportunity for your child to build their courage and resilience in case it happens again. Here are some ideas of what you can do to help:
- Consider dropping the subject if your child doesn’t bring up the incident or want to talk it out further.
- Offer to tell them about your own experience if you were laughed at by a group of children, or if you faced a similar situation. Be sure to emphasize your own courage and resilience while remembering the event.
- Remind them that all children are different, and it can be hard for other kids to understand differences in a mature way. Reinforce to your child how proud you are of their maturity and empathy in case they find themselves on the side of the laughing group someday.
- Be sure to model appropriate laughter as a response for your child. Try to set an example to illustrate the difference between laughing at someone with ridicule and laughing because someone is intentionally funny. Do everything possible not to undermine, shame, or embarrass your child by laughing at them.
- Look for books in which a character goes through something similar. Your child will be comforted knowing that others have navigated the same actions and feelings.
If your child continues to be bothered by a single event or an ongoing situation of other children laughing at them, you may need to take further action. Depending on the age and environment of the kids involved, bullying could become a serious issue.
One of the best ways to establish courage and confidence in your child is through imaginative play and learning about the world around them. At Cognisprings, we support parents looking for educational toys that inspire children to explore who they are and their environment. That’s why we provide books, puzzles, games, and toys that are thoughtfully designed to encourage and reward independent as well as cooperative playtime. Our unique products enhance children’s critical thinking, creativity, and curiosity. Family togetherness, such as playing games or reading, not only creates lasting memories, but sets a safe foundation for your child to express themselves freely. In addition, Cognisprings prioritizes fun and educational activities that are screen-free, promote healthy cognitive development, and encourage personal growth.