by Michael G. Sabbeth
“I’m not going to tolerate that kind of talk, young man!”
And then you tolerate it.
“I won’t be treated that way, young lady!”
And then it happens again. And again.
Have you ever made such comments to your child in response to rude behavior? Have you ever then accepted what you just vowed was unacceptable? Every parent has done both. I know. Parents have told me so hundreds of times. However, parents need not despair. There are solutions to rude behavior.
Keep in mind that it is easier to use these guidelines with a seven-year-old than with a seventeen year-old child. That’s why I encourage parents to begin talking seriously with their children at an early age. I call the process “creating a culture of conversation.” Also, these tips are not self-actualizing. That is to say, rude behavior won’t disappear instantaneously like smoke at a campfire. The guidelines must be used continuously and they must be supported by consistent behavior.
Let’s begin in the old school room way by defining the problem. What is rudeness? According to the dictionary, the first definition of rudeness is being discourteous or impolite, especially in a deliberate way. Whether it is foul language, inconsiderate behavior or a disdaining rolling of the eyes, we know rudeness when we see it.
Now we know what it is but why is rudeness undesirable? It’s unethical. It violates the ethical principle of Autonomy, which requires that another person’s personhood be respected just as one has a right to demand respect for oneself. This principle includes the duty to respect other people, at least to the extent that such respect is morally justified.
Most readers have heard of the “The Golden Rule,” which essentially states “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” Having a rule, golden or otherwise, is fine, but how do we encourage children to do all this “untoing” to others? These five tips will help eliminate or reduce rude behavior. Etiquette Classes are also a great way to instill good manners and social skills.
1. Hold children accountable for their words
“Avoid responding in ways that excuse the behavior like, ‘Oh, I know you don’t mean that!’ or ‘You’re just angry.’ Such responses diminish the accountability of the child and is supplying an excuse, a justification, for rude behavior. Hold the child accountable. Challenge the words: ‘If you have a disagreement, let me know, but I do not deserve to be hated.’
Consider too what tolerating the behavior says about you as a parent. Parents show a lack of self respect and that they can be demeaned and treated with contempt, which undermines parental moral authority. That’s the last thing a parent wants to do.
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by Michael G. Sabbeth
2. Show that rudeness has consequences
Rude behavior is a reflection of the character and integrity of (a person) and influences the way other people see you out in the world. Point out to your child that rude people lose friends and the respect of others. Within your family, instill specific consequences for rude behavior because, whatever your choice of punishment, it must be conveyed that rude behavior has a price.
3. Help build a conscience
Building a moral conscience is the best remedy against rudeness. Parents help build a child’s conscience by guiding the child to understand the other person and then motivating the child to take actions that show respect and courtesy to others.
When your child is rude to you, encourage empathy by saying, ‘You have hurt me and shown disrespect for me. Do you want to be treated that way by me? Think about it.’
Another aspect is vital for parents to understand. Allowing one’s self to be treated rudely shows lack of self respect. It shows weakness. It shows that the parent can be rolled; can be demeaned and treated with contempt. Such behavior undermines parental moral authority. Such behavior will not establish the parent as a credible person of integrity.
4. Obey the Economic Laws of Rudeness
Rudeness is a behavior that is somewhat common but, as with all of human behavior, is subject to or influenced by fundamental rules, including economic incentives. In essence, that which is rewarded will be repeated and that which is taxed or punished will be reduced. Being dismissive of rudeness is a form of reward as is ignoring bad behavior. When ignored, there is no cost to bad behavior. Thus, there will be more of it. Punishing or imposing sanctions on rudeness will tend to reduce it. Whatever the appropriate punishment—a sharp rebuke, a stern lecture, a time out -- it must be conveyed that rude behavior has a price.
5. Be Consistent
Parents must pick and choose their battles. By being smart and selective, they will show moral judgment. They will win more battles than they will lose. The key is to be consistent. Don’t allow rudeness sometimes and not others. Inconsistency is confusing to the child and indicates a lack of principle and a lack of confidence in the parent.
Be consistent in consequences and, above all, be consistent in your words, that is, your expression of your moral values. Be consistent in reinforcing that which you find virtuous and that which you find morally deficient. In quiet moments, explain why rude words and behavior hurt you and others, including your child.
Looking for some professional help with rude kids? Etiquette classes or Cotillions teach manners and social skills in a fun environment. Check out programs around Colorado.
Michael Sabbeth has presented to Denver-area elementary school children for more than twenty years. He is the author of the recently published book on teaching moral reasoning and ethics to young children, “The Good, The Bad & The Difference: How To Talk With Children About Values.” www.kidsethicsbook.com. Michael Sabbeth is also an attorney specializing in small business and probate law.