American author, Bryan H. McGill, wrote, “No one is more insufferable than he who lacks basic courtesy.” When fathers assign a zero-tolerance policy to rude attitudes and behaviors of young children, we can save our family from a world of trouble.
Causes of Rudeness
Poor problem-solving skills, peer pressures, and ignorance drive much of the rudeness that runs rampant today. Movies, music, television, and the internet often glorify crudeness, disrespect, and even cruelty. We aren’t born with manners—rudeness is a naturally occurring phenomenon in young ego-centric children, especially when they face conflict. In adolescence, teenagers commonly use rudeness as a normal coping mechanism, pushing parents away during the slow and arduous transition into adulthood. In many households, parents may be stressed or consumed with their own challenges; time and attention are not devoted to appropriately managing rude attitudes and behaviors, neither their own nor those of their children.
While friendly is preferable, we are not their friend, we are their father. We have three crucial roles: Teacher, Coach, and Limit Setter. Whether it’s rolling their eyes, swearing, screaming, ignoring, or refusing to do as they are told, fathers should stop rude behaviors in their tracks.
Especially if they haven’t historically experienced limits, children can behave like uncivilized little hooligans. If our track-record for setting limits is substandard, it’s that much more important to stop rudeness before it mutates from a bad habit to a character deficiency. By setting consistent expectations and enforcing standards, fathers can stop the dark cloud of rudeness from hovering over our children and their future.
Childhood rudeness is inevitable. Gently, calmly, and confidently point out rude attitudes and behaviors. Let children know that we might not always agree, and while it is ok to be angry, it is not ok to be rude.
Model Appropriate Behavior
If our children are struggling with rudeness, spend some time with self-reflection, searching within to illuminate if any of our attitudes or actions might promote rudeness. Does our children’s bad behavior make us visibly frustrated? Do we allow them to observe—and then imitate—this negative reaction in us, encouraging a vicious cycle? Even if we are upset, it is up to us, as adults, to maintain self-control and model the behaviors we want them to adopt.
When parents are mature enough to showcase a positive and healthy attitude in the face of a child’s rudeness, we prove to them that we are capable of being polite, even when we are upset. If we’re angry, we aren’t compelled to express anger. If we’re disappointed, we aren’t obligated to express disappointment.
If our toddler demands more juice with a disrespectful tone of voice, respond by politely saying, “Please don’t use a rude voice. If you’d like more juice, please say, ‘Daddy, may I please have some more juice?’” If they ignore us, confidently insist, “I am not able to help until you are polite, please say, ‘Daddy, may I please have some more juice?’” Be sure to model exactly what you’d like the youngster to say—and how you’d like them to say it. Children imitate what they observe.
Avoid Power Struggles
If we find our horns locked in a power struggle, we’ve already lost. If we get drawn into a fight, learn a lesson and use it to be more intelligent next time. A father’s goal should not be to win arguments, but to teach good behavior. Help children realize that if they are rude, they’ll have poor friendships. If they continue being rude, they’ll grow into rude adults and they’ll have no friendships. Few things are more tedious than having to trudge through life without friends; rudeness compromises everything. We must ensure our children hear this message loud and clear.
Don’t Take It Personally
Our children’s rudeness is not about us, it’s about them. If they try to hurt or anger us, don’t take it personally, separate the emotion, and inform them that their behavior is wrong. If warranted, we can say, “It’s not okay to give me an attitude. While you sit in the Thinking Chair, please think about how you should have behaved. When time is up, you can tell me how you should have behaved differently, and we can put this chapter behind us.”
Parenting is not a popularity contest. Our children need and deserve a father who holds them accountable. It doesn’t matter if they like us in the present moment; it is not our job to be their friend. We are the parent; our focus is to help them eliminate rude behaviors. Let’s retain our composure, set limits, and enforce reasonable standards—from a place of fatherly love.
If rudeness is verbal, is it what they say (content) or how they say it (tone)? As we take corrective action, specify precisely what must be corrected.
Before children have an opportunity to express displeasure with a gift they’ve received, get ahead of this by teaching them that it isn’t appropriate to tell someone we don’t like a present they bought for us. Let them know that if they don’t like a present, to graciously say, “Thank you for thinking of me!”
As children transition through adolescence, certain levels of rudeness are not only normal, they’re also to be expected. With calm confidence, state our position, then leave it alone. We don’t have to attend every fight—especially with teenagers.
Where should we draw the line? Refrain from offering great paternal insights during the heat-of-the-moment. Wait until emotions have cooled to increase the likelihood of 1) things getting blown out of proportion and 2) having a healthy, productive conversation where we can BOTH learn something.
Because it is so easy to be courteous and respectful, it is exceedingly sad to witness children who haven’t been taught to be polite. Rudeness undermines success at every turn, filling lives with hardship. German philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer, summarized rudeness perfectly, “It is a wise thing to be polite; consequently, it is a stupid thing to be rude. To make enemies by unnecessary and willful incivility is just as insane a proceeding as to set your house on fire.”
“A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.”
—Provers 15:1 NLT
This picture book is all about diffusing reactivity with love, which can make a world of difference.
It seems like light reading, but it’s serious stuff: Manners are major social skills, and this book gives kids a great start.
Psychological defense mechanisms are an inevitable part of the human experience. When they become too pervasive or deeply entrenched, they may damage our personal relationships, restrict or distort our emotional lives and prevent us from behaving in ways that promote lasting self-esteem.
Habits and attitudes developed during the all-important formative preschool years affect us for the rest of our lives life. These years are also a challenging time for parents as their children test boundaries (and patience). How parents and children respond makes all the difference in the world.
This playful book will teach kids what disrespectful behaviors are, how to use good manners, and be respectful for others.
A hilarious guide for teens to use manners to gain respect, feel good about themselves, and enjoy life to the fullest.
PLEASE NOTE: As an Amazon Associate, Fathers Truly Matter earns from qualifying purchases. The information in this post should not be construed as providing specific psychiatric, psychological, or medical advice, but rather to offer readers information to better understand the lives and health of themselves and their children. It is not intended to provide an alternative to professional treatment or to replace the services of a physician, psychiatrist, or psychotherapist.