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Children / fatherhood / Mama Drama / Motherhood / School / Teens/Tweens

Mama Drama: Responding to Rudeness from Other People’s Kids

Dear Mama Drama:

I’ve had a few experiences with rude children that have stumped me. I don’t really know how to deal with other people’s kids who are disrespectful. Where is the line?

(photo credit)

One was a teenager who had parked across three parking spaces in our church parking lot. I politely asked him to move his car but he gave me lip and refused. Imagine how mortified he was when he learned our religion classes were combining that day and he had to sit through my lesson.

Another was a student in my daughter’s second grade class who was being really mean to her about something she didn’t agree with. Fine. But then this girl started going off on ME! I couldn’t believe she’d dare to do it to an adult.

~Disbelieving Mama

Dear Disbelieving:

It can be a challenge to respond to rude and disrespectful behavior from children who are not your own. If it were my children being rude, I would want an adult to politely and firmly set limits with them. So, that is what I suggest for you.

This sounds like exactly what you did with the teenager in the parking lot. Letting it go once he became rude was probably the best idea as you have no idea how escalated he may have become. The natural consequences he experienced of having you as his teacher that day will hopefully be enough to deter that kind of behavior in the future. Another follow up action in a similar situation may be to go inside and talk with someone in charge about your concern. Someone with authority over the space may have more pull and can call a tow truck or the police as needed.

With the girl in your daughter’s class I think setting limits is again the best choice.  A bonus of having this happen at school is that you can refer to the classroom and/or school wide behavior expectations to support your response. You could step in early as she was being rude to your daughter and offer to help her solve the problem or direct her to speak respectfully (which may have been how you then earned her wrath in the first place).  Additionally, after getting over the initial shock of her ranting at you, you could say in a firm tone, “Excuse me, you are being rude. I’m glad to listen to you if you speak respectfully.” If her behavior doesn’t change, you can escort her to the teacher or call the teacher over to where you are for further intervention.

I have also experienced children being rude to other children or using equipment and materials inappropriately at parks and playgrounds. I intervene by telling them to stop the specific inappropriate behavior and give them an appropriate expectation to follow, such as: “Stop throwing the wood chips. The wood chips stay on the ground.” “Stop, you can go up the ladder and down the slide.” “Stop, if you want a turn, say ‘may I have a turn, please?'”

I also tell kids in stores to walk safely, use their inside voices, and watch out for other people if they are running around wildly. I’ve asked teenagers and adults to watch their language when there are children around. I told the teenager across the street to turn down the music in his car as it was rattling to picture frames on the walls of my house two houses away. He didn’t think it was that loud, but I respectfully restated my reasons and he turned it down.

Honestly, I believe children and teens need adults, in addition to their parents, to set limits about appropriate behavior in different settings. Most parents will appreciate this, some parents won’t. It truly does take a village and if the village adults aren’t willing to step up, who will?

I think the line to watch is making sure we, as the adults, maintain our composure and set limits respectfully. We also need to be aware of our safety in the situation and call for reinforcements when necessary, i.e. teachers, parents, store managers, or the police.  The flip side is to make sure we acknowledge and show appreciation to children in the community (our own and others) who are being polite and respectful, so they know this is the behavior we expect and value.

What are your experiences or strategies for responding to rudeness from children who aren’t your own? How do you acknowledge positive behavior you observe in the community?

Motherhood is an amazing journey that can have its share of Mama Drama. The Mama Drama column runs on Fridays with everyday mothering questions from readers and answers providing strategies to tackle these daily challenges. Send your questions and challenges to [email protected], and your Mama Drama could be in next week’s column! Lisa is also available for private consultations. All emails and identifying information will remain confidential. Read more of Lisa’s parenting perspective at her Laughing Yoga Mama blog.

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  1. Sage advice as always, Lisa. Totally bookmarking this–thanks!

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