Rudeness damages others by creating stress, eroding self-worth, creating relationship problems and making life difficult. When we are treated rudely by others, we often become vulnerable and self-doubting. Teaching children to be polite is not an all-or-nothing proposition, but instead is a continuum that starts at birth and continues throughout life. Teaching a child just one single strategy toward politeness will better that child!
The most important skill we can teach our children to help them succeed in life is the ability to get along with others in society. To do that, it takes a village. If we fail, the rest of the world will let us know, and our kids will be subjected to a life of ridicule, isolation and despair. As a parent, you are your child’s prime instructor! Model politeness, say “NO” to rudeness and keep making a positive difference!
Here are some tips for teaching your children how to say “No!” to rudeness and “Yes!” to manners and courtesy:
• Start by setting a zero tolerance for rudeness. Explain to your children that it is your job to help them grow up to become the best they can be. Let kids know that rudeness is a damaging learned behavior, and that you can and will teach them to either avoid it or unlearn it!
• When you see your child acting rudely, go back to the lists on the causes for rudeness in my earlier blog and try to figure out why he or she is choosing to act that way. If you can figure out the cause, it is much easier to develop the most effective solution. Use incidences of rudeness as teaching opportunities to help your children develop their good manners and social skills.
• Model politeness in every way possible. Your children are always watching you and they will follow your example. If you are ever rude in front of your kids, acknowledge your behavior to them and apologize.
• Show and feel empathy. Based on the cards children are dealt in life, they may be playing the best hand they can to win the game of life. Teach children from where they are in the world, not from where you expect them to be.
• Read stories to your kids that have messages about positive behavior that counteracts rudeness (A few suggestions include: Cell Phoney; Sorry I Forgot to Ask!; Teamwork Isn’t My Thing and I Don’t Like to Share; But It’s Just A Game!; Cliques Just Don’t Make Cents!; Thanks For the Feedback; and Making Friends Is an Art! All of these books are available through the Boys Town Press®. Have your children point out how the stories’ characters acted rudely and discuss why they may have chosen to act that way, if they knew they were being rude and what they did to overcome their rudeness. Oftentimes, if a child in a story has a problem and learns to solve it, the young reader can identify with the strategies used in the book and apply them in real life.
I often tell parents and kids: “Your thoughts are private, but your behavior is public.” You can think whatever you want to think, but the minute you let your thoughts out of your head through your words or actions, they become public information. And your words and actions are what people use to define the kind of person you are.
When it comes to how you want your children to treat others, there isn’t a better reason for teaching them positive social skills.