Written By: Kathy Glow @ Kissing the Frog
The other day, as I was taking my five-year-old to preschool, I rounded one of the corners in our neighborhood a little too widely. Another car was coming, and despite the fact that the driver didn’t need to swerve or brake to avoid me, he flipped me the bird anyway.
“Why did that man hold up his finger at you, Mommy?” Colin asked me.
“Because he was being rude,” I responded angrily.
Has anyone else noticed how rude our society has become lately? Adults are rude to each other, children speak disrespectfully to their elders, and television shows, commercials and video games seem to make this behavior okay.
I, for one, do not accept this behavior. When someone is rude to me, it ruins my whole day. When I am rude, I feel guilty about it for a long time. And when my children are rude, I feel like a horrible parent.
Raising nice kids in this day and age isn’t as daunting as it seems. Here are 8 simple tips we all (yours truly included) need to remember:
1. Help your child understand what constitutes polite behavior. Honestly, sometimes kids just don’t know. They may think making an observation about someone’s appearance is just being friendly (calling them fat, hairy, black, etc…). Children need to be taught what is polite to say to others and what is not. And laughing at them when they blurt out something inappropriate, cute as it may be, does not help them to learn what is polite.
2. Consider the child’s age and stage of development. Even a one-year-old can learn the basics of please and thank you. It is important to start small and expand. Children are most receptive to learning new things between the ages of two and five. By the time children are about five, they begin to show empathy for others. I was at the pumpkin patch with my son’s preschool class, and I watched as he took a classmate by the hand and helped her down a steep plank. It warmed my heart, as I had never seen him display this kind of empathy in the past.
3. Teach by example. This is one of those “No duh’s” of parenting. Children are mirrors of ourselves and nothing cuts deeper than seeing them reflect our negative behavior back to us. I am frequently polite to others as I go about my day – holding doors, saying thank you, telling people to have a nice day. As a result, my children are generally well-mannered at school and at friends’ houses. At home, however, I tend to have a short fuse, sometimes snapping and speaking rudely to my family. Sometimes I wonder why are they are so rude to each other, and then it hits me – because that’s what I do. Ouch.
4. Be consistent. Don’t accept a certain behavior in one situation that you wouldn’t accept in another. Oops, guilty of this, too. There are certain things that we talk and joke about at home – potty humor, for example (I live in a house of five males) – that aren’t exactly polite in civilized social circles. Even though we try to explain to the boys that it’s okay to talk about at home, but not in public, the lines get blurred for them at times. To allow them to speak one way in one situation and tell them it is wrong in another is confusing.
5. Monitor t.v. viewing, video games, and books. Okay, okay, so we’re guilty of this one, too. Television programs sure push the envelope these days, don’t they? Have you ever really watched some of these “kids” shows on Nickelodeon and the Disney channel? The kids speak rudely to one another and adults. But, as they get older, it gets harder to monitor what children are seeing. After all, we can’t expect them to watch Sesame Street until they go to college (sigh, wouldn’t it be nice, though?). Rather than banning television altogether (and bravo to you if you do), I try to keep an ear open to what is on and talk to my kids if I hear something rude.
6. Remind and reinforce rather than shame. We’ve all seen that barely present parent who yells at her child from afar to “be nice” and then goes right back to talking on her phone. Conversely, we’ve all seen that parent who yells and calls his child rude. When my boys are rude or mean, I tell them their words were rude or mean, not them. Then I rephrase what they said in a more polite way for them, and I wait until I am satisfied with their self-correction.
7. Surround yourself with polite and kind people. Most people have the good sense to save the rude language and crude jokes for adult time. But unfortunately, some don’t. Don’t be afraid to remind them that they are in the presence of impressionable little ears. Hey, it’s your kid you’re talking about! If they are consistently rude, save hanging out with them for adult-only time.
8. Have and hold high expectations. Many people will try to make excuses for a child’s words or actions, saying, “Oh, he’s only a toddler,” or “Well, she’s a tween/teenager – that’s just how they are.” I don’t accept these excuses. The minute you start to excuse a child’s rude behavior, you’ve given them a free pass to act however they please. Model, reinforce, and expect the best at every age and stage and in every situation.
Being a sweet, polite, kind person all of the time is hard work. It’s especially hard on our bad days, our stressed out times, and in the face of a rude stranger. It’s so much easier just to snap and let our emotions fly. I tell my boys that feelings are natural and okay. How you choose to express those feelings is up to you.
Yes, it’s a rude world in which we live. But we can teach our children to be kind. I try to remind myself and my children to start from a place of love. Are you going to add sadness to someone’s day or add happiness? It’s really your choice.
What tips would you add for teaching your children to be kind and polite? What’s the golden rule in your house?