The negative effects of toxicity among peers, in the classroom, on the playground and online, are now well-documented and illustrated in documentaries and films. Even when toxic behaviour doesn’t lead to the worst-case-scenarios, studies have shown that the stress caused by toxic people can have long-lasting effects*.
But sometimes the toxicity is more subtle than bullying. It could be a friend with low self-esteem putting themselves down at every opportunity; the constant disapproval or overly competitive streak of the student at the neighbouring desk; or a classmate’s regular complaining or negative attitude towards life in general. These types of energies can drain children or cause them to become emotional when they arrive home at the end of the day, without them necessarily understanding what has caused their pain. For sensitive children, this can feel like a constant onslaught.
Parents, caregivers and teachers play a part in building a culture of intolerance towards bullying and toxicity. Schools work hard to reinforce positive values, communicating incidents and working together to solve problems. Parents and teachers whose priority is to foster students’ self-esteem often experience success in raising children who are kind to themselves and to others and who have a positive outlook on life. Making it o.k. to talk about your feelings helps children to bring their problems into focus in order to move through them, and in turn helps them understand themselves in greater depth.
But it is said that ‘Hurt people hurt.’ While parents, teachers and fellow students may have some impact on how children behave towards each other, no-one can really control anyone else’s thoughts, words or actions. Nor can we avoid all toxic people in life! Dealing with toxicity among peers therefore becomes a task of managing our own minds, more than it is about trying to change the behaviours of others. This is about building resilient young people.
*Studies on the effects of toxicity and strategies to help https://www.talentsmart.com/articles/How-Emotionally-Intelligent-People-Handle-Toxic-People-1028629190-p-1.html
Building resilience in children