Five Tips for Dealing with Rudeness

by michael on March 31, 2011

I met Courtney, an editor of Colorado Parent Magazine,, at her office just before the New Year. After reading several issues, I concluded the magazine was high quality. I accepted an offer to write for the publication. Since my book’s publication, I have spoken with several hundred parents. Only a few parental issues are mentioned frequently. One of the most common is rudeness.

I don’t know exactly what’s in the air but it seems a lot of children are rude. They are rude to each other; they are rude to strangers and they are rude to parents. It may be simplistic but it is nevertheless true that people in a negative way to the degree they can get away from it. Rudeness is a superb example of that proposition and rudeness in children is an even more superb example.

I wrote an article for Colorado Parent to help parents deal with their child or children’s rude behavior. I focused on the behavior of the child. I did not address parental behavior that might provoke rudeness. That topic is for another day. Here is a summary of my article that will shortly appear in Colorado Parent.

“I’m not going to tolerate that kind of talk, young man!”
And then you tolerate it.

Have you ever made such comments to your child in response to rude behavior? Have you ever something was intolerable and then you tolerated it? And continued to tolerate the intolerable behavior? If you want to eliminate or reduce rudeness, here are a few tips that can be solutions to the rudeness problem.

First of all, let’s acknowledge that it is easier to reform a seven-year-old than a seventeen year-old child. Thus, I encourage parents to begin talking seriously with their children at an early age and instill what I call ‘a culture of conversation.’ Also, these tips are not self-actualizing. Results won’t happen automatically. Parents have to work on implementing these tips.

What is rudeness? lists the first definition of rudeness is being discourteous or impolite, especially in a deliberate way. Synonyms include bad-mannered, disrespectful and inconsiderate. Whatever the definition, we know it when we see it.

Rudeness is unethical. It violates the ethical principle of Autonomy, which requires that another person’s personhood be respected just as one has a right to demand respect for oneself. This principle includes the duty to respect other people, at least to the extent that such respect is morally justified. I trust these five tips will make life a little more amiable within the family.

1. Hold Children Accountable for Their Words

Let’s say a parent is subjected to words such as “I hate you.” or “Shut up, you….” or even worse. How many times have you heard a parent say, in response, “Oh, I know you don’t mean that!” or “You’re just angry.” Such responses diminish the accountability of the child.. The parent is supplying an excuse for rude behavior. Do not minimize or be dismissive of rude behavior.

2. Show That Rudeness Has Consequences

Rudeness does not occur in a vacuum. Explain that it has consequences. Rude behavior is a reflection of the character and integrity of the actor. A person’s character and integrity influence other people. Rude people lose friends and the respect of others. Rudeness invites rudeness to the actor in return. Do not say rudeness is unacceptable unless you are prepared to act to show that you won’t accept it.

3. Help Build a Conscience

Building a moral conscience is the best remedy against rudeness. A conscience is that inner voice that does two things: it tells you what is right and it tells you that you should do what is right. Knowing the first is morally useless unless you are willing to do what is right. Parents help build a child’s conscience by teaching empathy and compassion, that is, guiding the child to understand the other person and then motivating the child to take actions that show respect and courtesy to the other person. Dozens of children in my classes have told me, “It hurts me the most when my parents say they don’t trust me.” Children have repeatedly told me, “When I understand the other person better, then I won’t want to hurt him because I know what it will feel like.” These statements indicate the speaker has a conscience.

4. Obey the Economic Laws of Rudeness

Rudeness is subject to fundamental rules, including economic incentives. In economic theory, that which is rewarded will be repeated and that which is taxed or punished will be reduced. Being dismissive of rudeness is a form of reward just as is ignoring bad behavior. Punishing or imposing sanctions on rudeness will tend to reduce it. Ignoring it will increase rudeness.

5. Be Consistent

Parents must pick and choose their battles. By being smart and selective, they will show moral judgment. By consistent, I mean being consistent in a virtuous way. Being consistently foolish or unethical is not the consistency I recommend. Do not allow rudeness sometimes and not others. Inconsistency is confusing to the child and indicates a lack of principle and a lack of confidence in the parent. Parents should be consistent in expressing and enforcing virtuous values. Parents should communicate consistently why rude words and behavior hurt not only the parent but the child also.

Over the past twenty years I learned that children want parents to help them become strong moral people. Parents don’t want rude children and the truth is, children don’t want to be rude. These five tips will help reach both goals.

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