cover image Why Good Kids Act Cruel: The Hidden Truth about the Pre-Teen Years

Why Good Kids Act Cruel: The Hidden Truth about the Pre-Teen Years

Carl Pickhardt, . . Sourcebooks, $14.99 (308pp) ISBN 978-1-4022-1944-3

Why do so many preteens treat each other so badly? Why is intentional meanness so prevalent in the middle school years? Early adolescence, a time of major physical and psychological change, is also when preteens suffer harassment, stalking, intimidation, humiliation, and fear—and haven't a clue how to handle or stop this deliberate treatment. Psychologist Pickhardt identifies and examines the causes and behaviors that make up what he calls “social cruelty” among kids, clearly explaining that it appears in ages nine to 13 because that is when kids feel vulnerable about separating from childhood and desire more social independence. At the same time, they seek to protect their own diminishing self-worth by either derogating others' worth or going on the attack (to pre-empt getting hurt first) in order to assertively claim a place in school society. There are five major ways kids act out (teasing; exclusion; bullying; spreading rumors; and ganging up), and Pickhardt devotes one chapter to each of these, offering examples of different kinds of situations including fights and cyberbullying, dialogue for countering attacks, and encouragement for making good choices. Most importantly, there are instructions for parents, teachers, school administrators and counselors so they can effectively and consistently keep episodes of social cruelty under control. Pickhardt accurately and compassionately captures the voice and concerns of children and parents alike. This should find shelf space with Rosalind Wiseman's Queen Bees and Wannabes and Giannetti and Sagarese's Cliques . (Jan.)