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Battling Rudeness in Kids: The Causes and Consequences

Young girl with arms crossed

​​​According ​to The Washington Post, a recent research study indicates that children who scored well on social competence indicators were four times more likely to get a college​ degree by age 25 than children who scored poorly. The study goes on to state that children who interact well as kindergartners are more likely to make friends and get positive feedback from teachers, and therefore are more likely to like and stay in school.

Teaching children at a very young age how to treat others with good manners, respect and courtesy is one of the most important things we’ll ever do as parents. In fact, one of the most valuable tools we can give our kids is the ability to build positive relationships with other people.
The flip side of having good people skills is rudeness. In this article, we’ll look at the reasons for rudeness and why it seems so many children (and adults) fall into a “rudeness rut.”​

So why are so many people – including children – rude?

Rudeness is a learned behavior. Infants are born adorable, innocent, and teachable. But as they grow up, some are taught to be rude. Parents fail to guide and protect their children when they don’t teach them manners and respect for other people. Having good social skills are so important because they affect how a child will do on the playground, in the classroom, at home, in the future workplace, and in life.

According to The Civility Solution – What to Do When People Are Rude, by P.M. Farni, there are 11 causes of rudeness:

  • Individualism and a lack of restraint – “I’ll do it my way and I don’t care about what you think!”
  • Inflated self-worth – People who are self-absorbed don’t value others except as a means to fill needs and desires.
  • Low self-worth – Being hostile and defensive is often a sign of insecurity.
  • Materialism – The quest for money and possessions is more important than showing kindness.
  • Injustice – An injustice may create feelings of envy, demoralization, depression, or outrage.
  • Stress – People who are overworked or overwhelmed may be indifferent to those around them.
  • Anonymity – “If I don’t know you, it doesn’t matter how I treat you.”
  • Not needing others – We are becoming content with electronic isolation.
  • Anger
  • Fear
  • Mental health problems

Here are a few more reasons that are not on The Civility Solution list:

  • Some parents were not taught to have good manners themselves, and they may not recognize what they are doing wrong or know how to teach manners to their kids.
  • Some parents may be so wrapped up in their own lives that they fail to recognize or have the energy to care about their child’s interactions with others.
  • The parents of a rude child may feel like they’ve lost control and don’t have the ability or energy to discipline their child.

Also today’s communication technology (cell phones, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, etc.) opens up a whole new pathway to rudeness as people say things online that they would never say to a person face-to-face.

Being on the receiving end of rudeness has its own negative effects. Being treated unkindly by others can cause anxiety, depression, and a loss of self-esteem. It also causes stress. In a recent study through Baylor University, it was discovered that when parents are treated rudely by others in the workplace, stress levels increase. That stress then follows the parent home and causes unhappiness, rudeness, and stress among family members.

According to Paul Tough (How Children Succeed, 2012), stress in the home causes adverse childhood experiences that can impede a child’s ability to develop and sustain skills such as cognitive flexibility (thinking outside the box to solve problems) and cognitive self-control (delayed gratification.)

It’s clear to see that rude behavior is not the path you want your child to follow. In my next article​, we’ll look at ways parents can teach their children how to make interacting with others a positive and fulfilling experience.

Battling Rudeness, Part 2: Helping Your Child Learn Positive People Skills