Family Magazine

Are Kids Naturally Cruel to Each Other? (from the Archives)

By Stevemiranda

I had a debate with a student in the school where I work about human nature. More specifically, it was about kid nature.

She argues that kids are mean. Kids are cruel.

I say that kids are kids, and if they act mean and cruel it’s because they feel scared or insecure. The problem is not with kids in general; it’s in the environment in which they’re placed. I haven’t seen any evidence to suggest that cruelty is a natural developmental stage in human beings.

She then relayed several stories of kids being cruel to each other: spreading malicious gossip, playing one friend against another, or even making insulting remarks to someone’s face.

I suggested that school is not designed to give kids the feelings of safety and security that nurture kindness. School forces kids to do things that don’t make sense to them, nurtures both social and academic competition, and gives kids the feeling that they’re constantly being judged by what feel like arbitrary and ever-changing standards.

She was unimpressed. So, knowing that the school where I work puts safety and security as its top priority—even more than academics—I said to her, “Have you ever seen kids here being mean to each other?”

She smiled. “No.”


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