Do Children Hold Grudges?

Forgiving those who have done wrong is a challenge for children. The challenge is inevitably woven into family and peer relationships and can reveal itself in many ways. Usually, disappointments and mistakes committed by others can find their way into a child’s life. It can give way to various emotions and behaviors associated with the grudge. While the resentment often develops in response to something that has already occurred, it may also develop when the child perceives the other person means harm to them.

When a child is disappointed or angry at you, they may firmly hold on to blaming indignation. For some children, this may seem like a way of punishing the person who is at fault. Others will be angry for a while before letting go. However, it can become a point of concern if this goes a bit too far and ripples through other relationships. The offended child may end up being unreasonable and petulant. It may be a way of responding to negative feelings and events, but it can negatively impact the child’s future if left unchecked.

Why Children Hold Grudges

Children hold grudges mostly because they are hurt. They could have seen or heard something they consider unappealing and form a negative perception of the other person. A parent may find it challenging to determine why the grudge developed or even try to resolve it. An adult may think of something as being a trivial insult trigger, but the child is holding a grudge. Therefore, you should not dismiss even the slightest resentment as silly but acknowledge that the child has been hurt deeply. It will help resolve the issues and encourage the child to be more of a forgiver.

Children who hold grudges often lack empathy, which is the ability to understand and share others’ feelings. Some children will naturally pick up social cues and do not need to be taught how to be empathetic. However, others need to be prepared and show the importance of forgiveness. It does not mean something is wrong with them, but they may need help navigating the nuances of friendships.

Since they struggle with empathy, children who hold grudges do so for two main reasons. First, they are sensitive to what is said or done to them. Second, they are easily hurt deeply by others. Holding grudges is also associated with the age of the child. For instance, a child below the age of 4 will usually require someone to apologize for hurting them. On the contrary, child above the age of 5 understands the concept of forgiveness; they are still likely to keep a grudge against the transgressor.

In addition to empathy and age-related factors, some children will hold grudges for no apparent reason. Even after teaching your children about forgiveness and discussing the complexity of human emotions, they may get angry about something and hold a grudge. You may have discussed the importance of a release and forgiving others, but the feeling of resentment and ill will may be so internally entrenched that it may feel like physical pain for the child. Anger waiting to erupt will fester, and the child may hold on to anger for a while.

Changing a Child from a Grudge-holder to a Forgiver

If your child holds grudges, they may find forgiveness hard to come by. They probably think that the other person did something intentionally to hurt them. The child may also have poor coping skills or be embarrassed by the hurt and hold a grudge against the other person. However, several coaching tips can help change the child from being a grudge-holder into a forgiver:

Probe the underlying needs of the child to find fault with others

The pattern of holding grudges is often focused on one person. It could be a sibling or a parent, while the rest of the family appears to be granted forgiveness. The child may also insist on finding fault with a neighbor, coach, or teacher. While several factors may have contributed to this, the origin may relate to some anger-arousing or embarrassing encounter that the child is yet to process fully. It may be helpful to discuss the source and help the child realize that their continuing pattern of retaliation is unhealthy.

Talk to the child when they are not holding a grudge.

Your child is likelier to listen with an open mind when not holding a grudge. Make sure you use the right approach to engage and bring some sense to the child. Instead of defending the wrongdoer, find the words to show how concerned you are for the child. You may point out how often the child’s mood is badly affected by someone else who frustrates them. Also, tell the child what will follow them if they do not develop forgiveness for others. While trying to make sense to the child, validate their view that they are disappointed. However, holding on to negative feelings towards others will only make the situation worse.

Describe how peers and family members repair tears in relationships

In most cases, grudge-holding children view right from wrong through a narrow self-serving perspective. Without an expanded view, they leave little room for consideration of intentions and circumstances. To improve their attitude, use examples of why forgiveness is essential. Let them know what it means to give someone a break or the benefit of the doubt, especially when the other person’s behavior is not their intention. The child must understand that allowing for a good experience with the other person can wipe out negative feelings. It can also reset the relationship, enable them to move forward, and not remain stuck in blaming muck.

Challenge the child to forgive without an apology

One of the significant weaknesses of unforgiving children is keeping a running tab of the personal infractions caused by others. While the direct approach would be to urge them to put it behind, they are more likely to resist. Instead, emphasize the individual growth the child will experience when they become more forgiving. Explain how problematic it can be to require another person to admit the blame before someone can forgive them. Let the child know that becoming an apology extractor only makes them bossy and blaming. They should understand that many issues do not require formal apologies and that voluntary forgiveness is necessary for maintaining relationships.

To Sum Up

Just like adults, children can also hold grudges. They can harbor resentment, bitterness, anger, and other negative feelings after someone has done something that hurt them. While some parents think that a child holding a grudge is silly, it can affect their well-being and how they will handle issues in the future. Coaching your child to be more forgiving will help them overcome grudges and build better relationships with others.

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