When did it become acceptable for kids to be rude? Over the past few years, I have noticed a steep increase in disrespectful behavior in children. As a teacher, I see this inappropriate behavior both at school, and in my day to day activities. You may be wondering what I mean by rude behavior. Here is a list of examples, but not an all encompassing list: eye rolling, inappropriate language, name calling, put-downs, hitting(including hitting parents), telling their parents that they hate them, stomping feet, yelling while displaying disrespectful body language, and basically throwing temper tantrums when they are far too old to be throwing them.
It is neglectful for parents and teachers to not take these opportunities to teach the child appropriate ways to behave. It is fine to feel frustrated, but it is not o.k. to lash out in a rude fashion. It is great for kids to have their own opinion, but it is not always polite to share that opinion. Kids need to learn to filter their thoughts. If they think it is always acceptable to state their opinion, there will certainly be occasions where they come off as being rude. This takes direct instruction! Kids will not learn through osmosis, or if parents go around apologizing for their child’s poor behavior.
I have heard students say and do extremely rude things. Whenever I do, I call them out on it. It is surprising to me that it appears as if I am the first person who has confronted them about their lack of manners. For example, one day last spring, my school was having a “free dress day”. That means the students do not have to wear their school uniform to school. As I was walking a group of 4th graders back to their classroom, one of the girls looked at another and said, “Why are you wearing granny shorts?” The poor girl who the comment was directed toward shriveled with embarrassment. I asked the rude student to stay back with me so I could speak to her in private. When I confronted the student about her rude comment, she stated, “Well, they were granny shorts. Didn’t you look at them. They were all baggy and had some flowers embroidered on the front.” I was in shock! I was going to be the first person to correct her behavior? Needless to say, I took the time to help the girl learn from this unfortunate event.
Part of my responsibility, as a teacher, is to guide/discipline other people’s children throughout the day. The difficulty with being a teacher is that my teacher mode cannot turn off at 4 p.m. I have been known to tell a kid at Costco to use kind words when speaking to his mother. I’ve told kids at the park to clean up their language and keep their hands and feet to themselves. Why? Why do I take the time and energy to teach these kids right from wrong, even though their parents may not be putting in the time? Because if they were my kids, I would want someone to take the time to teach them. Although, it is kind of ironic because I can’t think of one time that either of my kids (now 21 and 19) ever spoke rudely to me or anyone else. I am thankful for that!
You may be wondering what inspired me to write about this topic. Well, it was sparked by an incident that occurred in my husband’s elementary music class. I was glad he took the time to correct this child’s rude and disrespectful actions. We can only hope that some learning took place, so this will not happen again. Here is the letter of apology he had the student write. I covered the name so the student could remain anonymous:)