The Meanest Thing to Say
Announced on December 8, 1997
About the Book
Dear Parent:
Sooner or later, most children—on the street, the playground, or at school—meet other children who are deliberately mean. When this happens, there are several options for a child who is being picked on. Too often, the picked-on child's immediate response is either to fight back or to attempt a protective retreat. Retreating is preferable since fighting back will certainly escalate the conflict and may result in injury to both children. Not the best solution!

This story presents a sensible alternative course of action. With guidance from his parents, Little Bill learns to cope with a hostile child by controlling his own reactions. At school, he manipulates the confrontation without stooping to being "mean" himself. Heeding his father's advice, he gains the upper hand by saying "So?" to the angry boy's taunts. When Little Bill simply refuses to participate, the nasty name-calling falls flat. His strategy succeeds! Finding that his tactics aren't working, the deflated "mean" kid retreats in embarrassment.

But the story doesn't end there. The "mean" youngster is feeling insecure and lonely himself—perhaps because he is the new boy in his class. As Little Bill reaches out, inviting him to play and be a friend, we learn that even a potential bully, when approached with kindness yet firmness, may yield.

These tactics may not always be practical, but this book shows your child that there are ways to resolve conflicts with other children without loosing face or resorting to violence. In the process, a misbehaving kid may have a chance to change and be welcomed as a friend.

Alvin F. Poussaint, MD
Clinical Professor of Psychiatry
Harvard Medical School and
Judge Baker Children's center
Boston, MA

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