How many times do we look at our children, sometimes in disgust or with red faces and say, “that was RUDE!” Or, better yet, we ask our kids, “why would you do something so rude?” We already know the answer to this question…and they do not.
A comedian I once heard recounted a story of being at a local pool with his 4 year old son. As the story was told, an overweight lady wearing a Guess jeans T-shirt with the word “GUESS?” written in bold across the front walked by. The child walked up to her, turned his head to the side and said, “200? 250?”
Things such as “rudeness,” “politeness,” and other social rules and boundaries are learned over time, experience after experience. Our role as parents is to show our kids where these lines are, but more importantly, to give them experiences that will result in positive outcomes so they will be more likely to engage in that socially acceptable behavior again.
Embarrassment will happen, but it only punishes unacceptable behavior. Most children desperately want positive social experiences, want to be praised for being “polite,” and want to have people like them. If we can create and teach these behaviors, they do not have to rely on embarrassment or throw the social version of spaghetti at the wall to see which one sticks.
You see, sometimes in the process of trying out different social behaviors, our kids find behaviors that really work for them. They get attention, they get people talking, they get laughs.
However, a lot of these behaviors are not the ones you want (or the ones that will be productive for your child in the future). Not good. We all remember this kid from our early days in school.
So, to teach your kids what rudeness is, teach politeness. Practice in certain situations. As you walk into places where predictable interactions are going to happen (this happens all the time), give them something polite to say and see what happens. For example, if you are coming up to the counter at the grocery store, there is going to be an interaction with the clerk:
When we walk up there, she is going to say ‘hi,’ so what should you say?
You could say, “How are you? My name is…’ and maybe you could ask her how she is doing?
Remember to say ‘thank you’ when she hands me the receipt”
Did you notice I installed a few road signs for them: “when she says ‘hi'” and “when she hands me the ticket?”
Give them the signals for the behavior. This will help to clue them in.
You are creating the other person’s behavior as the prompt/cue for their polite behavior so you don’t have to serve that purpose (you still might have to nudge or tap on the shoulder, but less so than if you would not have already had this conversation).
The giving of the gift becomes the cue for “thank you,” not you standing beside them saying “what do you say?”
Teach them to look at people and in places for social “clues.” Talk about it with them. Prompt them before the opportunity presents itself.
They will thank you later.