‘He’s annoying me!’

Published 10:10 pm Tuesday, October 8, 2019

By Nathan Rice

Three kids filled the backseat of my car. We had been traveling for a few hours when one of the boys began to play with a toy car. He imitated the sounds of a car as it drove around the imaginary racetrack on his lap. Soon, it sounded like his car was stuck in a mud pile as he made the noise of wheels attempting to break free from the muck. He began to get louder as his car continually tried to get back to the race.

This caused the girl sitting next to him to scream, “Stop it! That’s so annoying!” The boy replied, “What? I didn’t do anything!” She answered, letting him know the cause of her outburst. “You keep making that same noise!”


Email newsletter signup

I put an end to their exchange when I ordered them to stop yelling and told them to tell me what was happening. The girl who was annoyed by the sound effects said, “He’s annoying me!”

It’s a line I hear often when working with children. Children, like adults, have things that get under their skin, and many have not yet learned how to handle someone who is plucking their nerves. Every time one of them says, “He’s annoying me,” is a chance for us to teach them how to handle these situations.

We should first determine if one of them is purposefully trying to annoy the other. If a child is trying to annoy someone else, we should address their behavior, reminding them that they are not allowed to purposefully annoy someone else.

We can then address how the one who was annoyed responded to the one annoying them. We can give praise when praise is due by saying something like, “I’m proud of you for letting me know and for not doing anything back to them.” If the one who was annoyed did not respond in the best manner, we can address that lovingly by saying something such as, “I understand he was annoying you, and I’ve talked to him about that, but you are not allowed to call him names when he annoys you.” This acknowledges that we understand that they were annoyed while still holding them to the standards we have set.

It is also a great time to teach them proper ways to respond when they are being annoyed. We can remind them that walking away from a situation may be acceptable, share some ways we have found to ignore annoying behavior, or how to find a trusted adult to help.

We should also be able to teach them how to deal with being annoyed by someone who isn’t even aware he or she is annoying them. The boy in the car was playing with a toy car, and he was not trying to annoy the girl sitting next to him. In situations like these, we should be explaining that we all sometimes do things that annoy other people. We’re all different, and we occasionally get on each other’s nerves. We should tell them to politely ask the other person to stop what they are doing rather than screaming at them to quit. Instead of screaming at the boy in the car, the proper response would have been to ask the boy to play a little quieter with his car.
Too often, we don’t take the time to teach them anything when they scream, “He’s annoying me!” Rather, we yell at both parties involved, hoping that our rebuke will end their argument and bring peace and quiet. It may end the argument, but we will have missed an opportunity to teach them how to handle someone being annoying. It’s a lesson they need to learn. Let’s make sure we’re doing our part to teach it to them.

Nathan Rice is a Hampton Roads native and can be reached at nrice@abnb.org.