• Sarah Hamaker
We all want our children to behave, but since no child is perfect, we can encounter rudeness in our kids or teens on any given day. Here are four ways to respond when your child is rude to you.
Consider the context. When my teenager snaps something rude to me, I wonder why – is my child having a bad day? Is he upset about losing a game or doing poorly on a test? Not that this means the child has license to be rude, but it does help me to know whether to respond immediately to the rudeness or to step back to give the kid space to process the initial angst before talking about what was said.
Remember, tone of voice is subjective. Yes, sometimes, our teens know exactly how they sound when they say, “Whatever.” And yes, sometimes, our younger kids have perfected that whininess to drive us crazy. But—and stay with me here—many times, tone of voice is in the ear of the listener. Let’s be more charitable when hearing something we think is rude, and the kid had no intention of being rude. That doesn’t mean you have to let it slide, but it does mean you have a gentle conversation in which you say that particular phrase sounds rude to you and that while you know their intention wasn’t to be rude, you would appreciate them not using that phrase or word when talking to you.
Let grace guide you. We can all do more to extend grace to our kids when their mouths run away with them. While correction is necessary, let’s be kind in how we do so and recognize that sometimes, even we are rude to others.
Be willing to apologize for your rudeness. There are times when I’m downright impolite to my kids—they know, and I know it. Therefore, it’s me who needs to issue an apology without qualification (“I’m sorry but…”). When we’re rude, whether to our spouse, kids, the driver who cut us off, or the store clerk who messed up our order, we need to own it, say we’re sorry, and try to do better next time. Let’s set the example for working through our own tendency to be rude.
Set clear expectations. Your children won’t know what you expect unless you tell them, but too often, we muddy the waters with too much gunk, and they miss the central message. Be short and sweet in your expectations. For example, when going on a playdate, say something like, “Address Carla’s mom as Mrs. Smith.”
Practice public behavior. Getting your kids to behave in a store, at church, in a restaurant, and at the park takes practice. Do dry runs at home. I did this with my children to help them learn what I expected and to be able to remember it when we were out of our house.
Focus on manners. Some people today have decided manners aren’t important, but I strongly disagree. Manners matter because they provide guidelines for politeness. When we don’t teach our children basic manners—holding doors for the person following them into a store, not rushing to get on the elevator first, waiting in line at the store, eating with our mouths closed—we are essentially saying only you matter, no one else does.