How to Teach Children to Respond to Insults: With Examples

Insults are a part of life, but they don’t have to define the self-worth of children. Discover practical tips and examples to help your child respond confidently.

Updated Dec 7, 2023
child response to insults

All of us parents would surely want to see our children handle insults and other related challenges with a measured degree of resilience and calmness. This is largely because we want them to grow up with confidence and self-esteem.

Yes, insults are a part of life, and our children will inevitably face them at some point. By giving them the tools to respond to this ill effectively, we help them build emotional resilience and assertiveness.

This task may seem daunting at first, especially when we don’t know where to start and what to say. However, with some guidance and practice, we can definitely get the job done.

In this article, we provide a detailed explanation on how to do all that, even with examples. We cover everything from the psychology of insults to practical tips and strategies that all of us can use to empower our children.

Understanding the Psychology of Insults

According to American Psychology Association,

the experience of being gratuitously offended and the corresponding feelings of shame, guilt, and anger are fundamental to insults. 

AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGY ASSOCIATION

Insults are verbal attacks that are intended to hurt, belittle, or embarrass the person they are directed towards.

They can come in many forms, from name-calling, mocking, to personal attacks.

It is important to understand that insults say more about the person who delivers them than the person they are aimed at. They are often a sign of the insulter’s own insecurities, biases, and prejudices. Many times they are victims of self entitlement or often times they are bullies.

By recognizing this fact, your child can learn not to take insults personally and develop empathy towards the person who delivers them.

How Children Can Respond to Insults

children's response to insults
Image by Sasin Tipchai from Pixabay

Now that we’ve covered the psychology of insults, let’s move on to the strategies for responding to them.

Here are some practical tips and examples that you can use to teach your child how to respond appropriately.

1. Stay Calm

The first step in responding to an insult is to stay calm. Insults can be hurtful, but it’s important not to let them get the better of you. Encourage your child to take a deep breath and stay focused.

Before talking, let your child practice positive self-talk. Encourage them to focus on their strengths and to remember that they are worthy and valuable.

The child should even count to ten before responding. Taking slow, deep breaths can help them feel more relaxed and centered.

This is helpful in regaining composure and thinking straight before reacting angrily. It is important not to take the insult personally. After all, the abuse is a reflection of the other person’s thoughts and feelings, not your child’s.

2. Acknowledge the Insult

The next step is to acknowledge the insult. Your child can do this by simply saying something like, “I heard what you said.” This shows the insulter that they have been heard and that their insult has not gone unnoticed.

It is also important to explain that it is okay to feel upset. Explain that it’s a normal reaction, and it’s essential to recognize and acknowledge their emotions.

Let your child respond with kindness and understanding. This can help to de-escalate the situation and prevent it from getting worse.

3. Ask Questions

One effective way to respond to an insult is to ask questions. This can help your child understand the insulter’s motives and can also help to defuse the situation. Some examples of questions your child can ask include:

  • “Why did you say that?”
  • “What do you mean by that?”
  • “Did I do something to upset you?”

According to Harvard-trained etiquette expert Sara Jane Ho, your child’s response can be as simple as the following three words:

Are you okay?

These words should be used in a friendly tone, and basically signals that you do not appreciate the insult.

4. Use “I” Statements

Encourage your child to use “I” statements when responding to an insult. This can help them express their feelings assertively and without attacking the insulter. Some examples of “I” statements include:

  • “I feel hurt when you say things like that.”
  • “I don’t appreciate being spoken to like that.”
  • “I deserve to be treated with respect.”

Try to empathize with the other person. Sometimes people say hurtful things because they are going through a tough time, or they are struggling with their own emotions.

5. Set Boundaries

Another way to respond to an insult is to set boundaries. Encourage your child to be assertive and make it clear they will not tolerate being insulted in the future.

This can involve saying something like,

  • I’m not okay with being talked to like that. Please don’t do it again.”

By setting boundaries, your child can assert their dignity and self-respect while also letting the insulter know that their behavior is not acceptable.

6. Use Humor

Sometimes, the best way to respond to an insult is with humor. Encourage your child to use their wit to deflect insults and turn the situation around. But remember that using humor is not always appropriate, and it depends on the situation and the individuals involved.

It is important to use good judgment to respond respectfully and appropriately.

For example, if someone calls them a name, they could respond with a joke or a witty retort. This can show the insulter that their words do not have power over your child and can also help to defuse the situation.

Here is a practical example of how to respond with humor:

Insult: “You’re so short, you could be an Oompa Loompa.

Response: “Well, I do have a golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, so I guess I’m in the right place!

This humorous response takes the insult and turns it into a playful joke, showing that the person is not taking the insult personally and is able to respond in a positive way. It also shows that the person is quick-witted and able to come up with a witty remark on the spot.

However, it’s important to note that this response is appropriate in a lighthearted situation and may not be suitable in a more serious context.

7. Walk Away

Finally, it’s important for your child to know when to walk away. If the insulter is being particularly hostile or aggressive, it may be best for your child to remove themselves from the situation.

Encourage your child to prioritize their safety and well-being and to seek help from a trusted adult where necessary.


More Examples of How Children Can Respond to Insults

child response to insults
Image by Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke from Pixabay

Now that we’ve covered some practical strategies for responding to insults, let’s look at some examples of how children can put these strategies into practice. These examples are just a starting point, and your child can adapt them to suit their own style and personality.

Example 1: Name-Calling

Insult: “You’re such a loser.”

Response: “I heard what you said. I don’t appreciate being called names like that.

Example 2: Mocking

Insult: imitates your child’s speech or behavior

Response: “Why are you mocking me? Did I do something to upset you?”

Example 3: Personal Attack

Insult: “You’re so ugly.”

Response: “That’s not a very nice thing to say. I don’t deserve to be insulted like that.

Example 4: Cyberbullying

Insult: Sends a hurtful message or comment online.

Response: “I’m not okay with being talked to like that. Please don’t send me messages like that again.”

One more …

child response to insults
Image by Waldryano from Pixabay

One popular example of response to insults was perhaps shown to us by Steve Jobs. Steve, the co-founder of Apple, was no stranger to insults. In fact, he faced many throughout his career.

One situation happened at the 1997 Apple Worldwide Developers Conference.

During the Q&A session, a member of the audience asked Jobs a question, but before he could finish, the man insulted Apple and its products. The audience reacted with boos and jeers, but Jobs remained calm.

He responded by saying,

You know, you can please some of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.

He went on to say that Apple was working hard to improve their products and that they were dedicated to making their customers happy.

Jobs’ response was a great example of how to handle insults with grace and poise. He didn’t stoop to the level of the insult, but instead, focused on the positive and remained professional. This helped to diffuse the situation and earned him respect from the audience.


FAQs

Q: What if my child is too upset to respond to an insult?

A: It’s important to validate your child’s feelings and let them know that it’s okay to feel upset. Encourage them to take some time to calm down before responding to the insult.

Q: What if my child responds to an insult with aggression?

A: It’s important to teach your child to respond to insults assertively but without attacking the insulter. If your child responds aggressively, take the opportunity to discuss more effective ways to handle insults.

Q: What if my child is being bullied?

A: If your child is being bullied, it’s important to take action to protect them. Talk to their teacher or school counselor, and consider involving the police if the bullying is severe or threatening.

Conclusion

Teaching children how to respond to insults is an important part of helping them develop emotional resilience, assertiveness, and self-esteem.

By understanding the psychology of insults and practicing practical strategies, they can learn to handle verbal attacks with grace and confidence. Remember, it’s never too early or too late to start teaching these essential life skills.

With some guidance and a bit of practice, children can learn to respond to insults in a way that empowers them and protects their well-being.

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