Stopping rudeness in children is a four-step process, combining awareness, modeling and practice.
1. Awareness-makes children aware when they are engaging in behavior that is not acceptable. If the rudeness is verbal, understand that there are two parts to communication: what you say (the content) and how you say it (the delivery). If the content is rude, then no matter how the message is delivered it will always be rude. For example, a child might say, “I hate this homework, Ms. Betsy!” You cannot merely fix the problem by getting the child to curtsey the next time she says, “Ms. Betsy, I find this homework to be awful.” In addition, the content of the message could be perfectly acceptable, but the delivery may not. A girl might say, “Move over so I can sit down on that bench!” This would be polite if the phrase changed to, “May I please join you on the bench?”
2. When making children aware of their rudeness, begin by pinpointing what they did that was rude. For a child who expressed displeasure at a gift, a parent might pull the child aside and quietly say: “What you are saying is rude. It is not nice to tell someone that you don’t like the present they bought for you. If you do not like a present, simply say thank you and tell the giver that you are happy he or she thought of you.” In this way, you are not teaching the child to replace unacceptable content by lying, such as having a child say she loved a present she didn’t. Rather, you are showing the child that in any situation, there are ways to be polite and kind.
3. If the rudeness is in the delivery, be specific about that, too. Tell the child, “That tone of voice is not alright.” You must also use awareness on yourself. What are your own rude habits? Chances are that children’s rudeness could mimic your own and is triggered under the same circumstances. For instance, when you are exhausted or highly frustrated, you might tend to be sarcastic but at least try to understand it.
4. Show how it’s done. Once you have pointed out that a behavior is rude, the next step is to show the child a more polite alternative. Give the child the specific words and tone of voice to use.
This is the part of the process where self-awareness is crucial. If your own rudeness is triggered by anger or embarrassment, and you feel angry or embarrassed at the child’s rude behavior, you may subtly be acting rude to the child. You may be frowning or using a sarcastic tone of voice. Even if you are seething with negative feelings in reaction to the child’s rudeness, you still need to control and model, in an accurate tone of voice, the exact words and polite delivery you want the child to use.
Finally, insist that the child repeat what you modeled, exactly as you modeled it. It is critical that children immediately practice the correct, polite words and tone of voice so that they can experientially learn the difference between the unacceptable behavior and the desirable one.
Say, for example, you have just told the preschooler that a demanding tone of voice is rude and you showed the child the desired tone by saying: “Please don’t talk to me in a rude voice. If you would like more juice, please say, ‘Ms. Betsy, may I have some more juice?’”
At first, the child ignores you so you gently insist by saying: “I can’t help you until you talk to me politely like this, ‘Ms. Betsy, may I have some more juice?’”
Very soon, the child will answer, “OK; Ms. Betsy may I have some more juice?” At that point, praise the child’s good manners: “Of course! When you ask me politely, I’m happy to get it for you.” You have banished rudeness.
Remember the Things you’ll need:
• A good grasp on politeness and good manners
Step 1 – Start early. As soon as the infant is able to understand words, begin using please and thank you with them. Once they are old enough to speak these words, it will be a part of their every day vocabulary.
Step 2 – Set an example. Make sure you are being polite and well mannered to everyone you meet, especially in front of the child. The child looks to you to lead the way. They will mock your behavior.
Step 3 – Remind. Between the ages of 4-6 years old politeness goes out the window. This isn’t to do with rebellion but more to do with independence. At this point gentle reminders are necessary. Asking the child to say please when they want something, thank you when they receive something and your welcome when they have been thanked is a great way to get them back in the habit!
Step 4 – Give examples. Give the child an example of rude or impolite behavior and have them tell you what is rude or impolite about it. Not only is this an activity that children enjoy but this will also help you gauge the understanding the child has on manners and politeness. If they answer incorrectly, simply explain the correct answer and tuck it away in your mind to ask again at a later time.
Step 5 – Don’t forget to tell children that it is rude to point out another’s bad behavior in front of others. Children are impulsive and always want to help. Therefore, a child may not realize that it is inappropriate to point out someone’s impoliteness, particularly when there is an audience.
Step 6 – Have patience. It may take a while for the child to get into the habit of being polite, especially if they are in school. Keep it positive and have patience. Doing anything else would just be rude!
Step 7 – Get ready for the compliments to start rolling in. Sadly, polite children can seem hard to find (along with polite adults!) in our society. People will notice how polite children are and they will let you know!
*Actions really do speak louder than words. Social skills are important in all aspects of the child’s life, from the playground to the classroom. Social skills help others feel comfortable with us and help us make friends. Politeness counts! Teaching children about respect is the most important and enduring job a teacher or parent will ever have. *Parents and teachers must allow children to feel all their feelings.
Nest week: Responding to the Angry Child