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We've all seen it, the kid on the playground that is always too rough, the child who refuses to share, the one who doesn't listen to a word any grown-up says. I always want to think the best of parents—this job is super hard—and I want to assume that we are all doing our best. But as my children age and we move beyond the terrible twos and trying threes, I've sadly noticed a trend that makes it very clear that we could be doing more.
Little girls with big attitudes; boys with zero boundaries; kids that are aggressive, snotty, and straight-up rude: nine times out of ten an interaction with their parents makes it very clear where they learned such behavior. The parents of rude kids seem to fall into one of two categories: rude themselves or totally oblivious.
The thing is, most kids are simply modeling negative behavior they learned from us. If you are rude to waitstaff and walk around with a scowl on your face, your child may very well be rude to classmates and quick to roll their eyes as well. It's likely that you learned such behavior from your parents, but as grown-ups it's our job to stop the cycle.
If you don't want your kid to be a jerk, you can't be one either.
We've all experienced seeing our less desirable traits mirrored back to us by our children. It's not easy to admit that you need to improve your own behavior. I know I struggle with it. My son has a tendency to want to control other people and situations and at times he lacks patience in a way that is all to familiar to me. Since I recognized this I've been trying hard to change myself and therefore the example I set for my children.
The idea isn't to become a screaming drill sergeant, but a thoughtful authority figure that's willing to create consistent consequences for hurtful behavior.
Sometimes the sweetest parents have very aggressive kids. These children seem to bully their friendly parents as much as they do everyone else. Such kids didn't learn to be rude by example, but rather by a lack of boundaries. These parents are either unaware of how their children are interacting with others or feel helpless in changing it.
If your child doesn't learn to treat you with respect how are they going to learn to treat their teachers, peers, or even themselves with respect? I admit there's a fine line here because if we bully our children into being polite they'll most likely learn more about how to bully than how to be kind.
The idea isn't to become a screaming drill sergeant, but a thoughtful authority figure that's willing to create consistent consequences for hurtful behavior. It's really hard—I've found myself exhausted, frustrated, and most assuredly out of patience (see above) when attempting to follow through with appropriate consequences, but it's one of the most important aspects of parenting. We can't expect our children to learn by example alone, we must be willing to teach them.
The bottom line is we can all do a little better. We can treat each other with kindness, we can teach our children to be respectful. It's within our power to raise a generation of people who are thoughtful and empathetic and through positive examples and hard work, we truly can make the world a better place.