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Teaching Politeness

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
Our 7 year old son is pretty rude. When we're in the car and there is only one water bottle he might just grab it from his sister or tell her, "Give me the water," in a rude tone. I tell him he needs to ask nicely and if he doesn't he can't have it. This behavior is pretty constant. We don't believe in punishment but have felt desperate enough to tell him that we don't know what to do so as reminders we would charge him 25 cents ($1 when he was over the top) whenever he was disrespectful to someone. At first that worked a bit, but then not so much. That went away and in time we switched to he'd have to clean up dog poop. Again it worked for awhile then not so much. Towards the end of last year he was pretty aggressive--hitting, headbutting me when he was angry, beating on doors if he was told to stay out. We took him off gluten and that made a huge difference. He is a totally different child, now it's just rudeness. We live a pretty low drama life. We unschool. I'm a SAHM, my husband is a strong, but soft-spoken, manager at work and is easy going at home. About the only stress we have is whether I should get a part-time job to help cover expenses or not. So it's not like our son is living a stressful life. He has lots of friends and we have frequent playdates. He wants to be in charge when he plays with his friends, but given how many friends he has it mustn't be too bad. When I've totally had it I do snap at him. Usually I apologize. I tell him how frustrated I feel when he is rude. The other day we went to the grocery store and he was a total charm. Everything coming out of his mouth was polite and respectful. I even bought the kids a treat as a thank you for him being so polite. (When we were charging him for being rude we also paid him for being polite.) Half an hour after leaving the store, as we were pulling onto our street, the rudeness started again. I went from a sense of peace to almost despare because I had seen how nice he can be and how easy it was to live with. He's not like this every minute of the day. Right now he and his little sister were just putting on tattoos and now I'm getting one. He knows how to get along. He knows how to be a good teacher to his little sister. He knows how to have friends (both one on one and in groups.) He just chooses to be rude. Or, if it's not a choice, he is simply rude. We don't let that be acceptable behavior but nothing we've done has made a difference. If he could just be polite most of the day life would be so much easier. Any suggestions on how to teach politeness.
post #2 of 14

My DS is going through a bossy phase, and what has worked for me (by which I mean it's getting better, not perfect) is being consistent with asking him to "Try again."  He doesn't get what he wants until he asks nicely.  Most of the time he remembers to ask nicely, since it saves him the hassle of having to say it over again.  

post #3 of 14
Thread Starter 

Maybe a simple, "Try again," might work, I'll try it, but I basically do that (though more long winded.) I've even pointed out that it would be a lot less work if he started out polite. 


The words, "It's not what you say, it's how you say it," will likely be branded on his brain forever.

post #4 of 14

I'm a fan of do-overs for impoliteness too. Full stop, correction, try that again. For every little thing that rubs me wrong enough, until it improves greatly.


The physical stuff sounds bad on a whole other level, I know about gluten doing things to them my 4 year old seems to get fatigued and these silent fist clenched rages on it, last one was after mac and cheese 2 weeks ago. Glad that has stopped for you.


With my passionate 7 year old, for 2 years or so now, it's been about encouraging him to learn to control himself. Catch himself before or at the start of doing wrong, take some time to chill under supervision until he is ready, and correct it. I show him I have complete faith he can learn self control and this isn't me throwing my authority around, it's him reconciling his actions with how it needs to be, how he wants things to be when he's being wise and looking at the big picture.


I would not have him pay money for anything but stealing or destroying things, and never pick up anything gross unless he made the gross mess on purpose. Loss of priviledges and extra chores instead of playtime/free time, I will assign when needed.

post #5 of 14
Thread Starter 

JamieCatheryn, do you have any resources on learning self control? Maybe a dvd or website might be helpful.

post #6 of 14
There are ages where kids get sassy. I know 6 to 7 was a bad time in my house. I don't know what got into my daughter but I would tell her to try again, to try phrasing something in a better way, to give me a better tone, or I'd just suggest a better way of saying something. Very consistently so she got out of the habit of speaking like that.

I think it's interesting that he stopped speaking politely after you rewarded him for speaking politely. I keep reading about anti-behaviorism (google Alfie Kohn) and that makes me wonder if he reacted against the attempt to control him with the reward. Maybe he has a strong will to not be controlled? I know that can be a pain on one side, but on the other hand if he isn't easily controlled when he's a teenager (by peers at that age,) that will be a wonderful thing. I think in your shoes if he's like that I might try to work with it because it's a sign of a healthy personality I think to not want to be controlled.

I'm also a huge fan of How To Talk So Kids WIll Listen. It's been around long enough that I think it's in most libraries. It has suggestions of how to word things in a way that works well for older kids. My daughter responds differently, for instance, if I tell her to pick up the dirty clothes she left on the floor, then if I simply describe what I see. "I see dirty clothes on the floor." If I say that, she picks them up instead of turning it into a power struggle full of back-talk. And that's just one of many suggestions they have.
post #7 of 14

No dvd's or sites sorry, we are taking cues more from scriptures than anything. You know, be wise, take your time in answering and choosing actions, show unconditional love and respect, admit what you have done wrong, be instantly forgiven but also make it right moving forward, be held accountable by others. Small things it's just pause everything, "that was rude, say it nicely". Big stuff it means sit near me til he's calm, draw out a conversation from him about what he did and why it should be different, with his help choose appropriate consequences. I have to keep my input really succinct, a lecture won't help anything.

post #8 of 14
Thread Starter 

But I love to lecture...lol. I love Alfie Kohn. I try and live by his principles, but when I watched his dvd it didn't really go into many practical solutions to common issues.


Like me and his dad he will not be controlled. Buying him the treat seemed to work since he was nice for 45 minutes after it. We are not talking control issues here, I really try not to do that (though he tries to micromanage others,) we are talking rudeness. No one is trying to control him (other than his politeness) when he wants a water bottle. All he has to do is politely ask, "May I have the water botttle?" rather than just taking it.


We are having a huge struggle with his eye excercises. He has to do them 3 times a week. They take a total of 18 minutes day if he would just do them. The battles over that are about control. He doesn't want to do them but it's a non-negotiable issue. But that's not what I'm talking about. I did eye exercises as a kid and I remember fighting with my mom over them. I totally get that he does not want to do them and it's expected he would fight me over them. What I am concerned about is the moment by moment rudeness.


I do value that both he and his little sister will not be controlled. I love that he has the self-esteem to wear bright pink socks and shoes because that's his favorite color. And I love that she has what is essentially a boys' haircut and wears her brother's hand me downs because that's what she wants. I buy her a few girls' clothes so that she has something other than motorcylce and bicycle shirts, but she usually wears her brother's. I like that my kids are confident enough to do what is right for them. I am just trying to teach my son that even though compliance is probably not a good trait (even though he has none of it,) cooperation is a great skill. I just would like some respite from the rudeness.


This thread and the comments are helping me. I've been looking around for information on teaching self-control. I ordered a book and we watched a Mr. Roger's about anger. My son said he didn't want to watch it, which was fine, but since he was in the room with us he kept stopping what he was doing to see the really interesting stuff. There are four more episodes on anger that I will try and sneak in. I don't know that he's angry every time he's rude, but I figure the lessons are still good. 

post #9 of 14
For rudeness, I either say "Try again." or "Ask again politely." or "How do you ask nicely?" everytime, It gets old for me, but it gets old for the child too and they start learning to ask nicely the first time to avoid having to ask again. I also occasionally explain that people aren't motivated to do things for you when you are rude to them which is why it is good to be polite.

I will occasionally ignore rudeness, basically pretending I didn't hear. This gives the child a chance to choose to ask politely the second time, but doesn't work as often as I would like.
post #10 of 14

I'm dealing with the same issue with my 3 1/2 year old. He demands things all the time, ("Water!, Push me in! Get me my firetruck!") and it drives me crazy. I don't react when he yells-- I firmly say, "Please ask that in a nice way," but it's getting so old. He'll usually say please, when prompted, but he does so in the most sarcastic, irritated way. It's like he has the attitude of a 13 year old at 3! I've tried simply ignoring him-- not prompting him to say please and hoping that he'll just figure it out, but it hasn't worked so far-- he just gets angry, yells and screams, and ends up throwing a fit. 


I know that this is about pushing boundaries for him-- I just don't know how to respond in an effective way. 

post #11 of 14
Originally Posted by SundayCrepes View Post

We are having a huge struggle with his eye excercises. He has to do them 3 times a week. They take a total of 18 minutes day if he would just do them. The battles over that are about control. He doesn't want to do them but it's a non-negotiable issue. But that's not what I'm talking about. I did eye exercises as a kid and I remember fighting with my mom over them. I totally get that he does not want to do them and it's expected he would fight me over them. What I am concerned about is the moment by moment rudeness.


My son has had problems with his teeth since he was very little, and it was always "non-negotiable" to brush and floss his teeth.  He's 5 1/2 now, and at some point he would want to play games brushing his teeth...like hiding or closing his mouth, etc.  We basically just left it up to him.  I don't have the energy to go after a 5 year old boy and play games at bed time to brush and floss his teeth.  We talked to him at length various times about why we brush our teeth, using language he can understand, and gave him examples of what happens if you don't do a good job of staying ahead of the bacteria (like Grandpa having to use dentures at an early age) or all the cavities I've had filled.  I think at some point I even showed him pictures of rotting teeth on the internet, and said it's really up to you.  They are your teeth and it's up to you to try and keep them healthy.  He's old enough to understand that.  Now, we never have tooth brushing games at bedtime.  I can ask him "did you remember to floss" and he'll run to get his flosser if he hasn't.  As long as they're old enough to really understand the consequences and there's a good way to show them ... then giving them responsibility for their bodies is a good thing.  I don't know if you can apply that to your situation or not...since I don't know what the purpose of the eye exercises is...but maybe you're remembering the struggles your mom had with you and thinking you have no choice but to continue that with your son?  And maybe giving him responsibility will work to avoid the struggles?  Sorry, I don't have advice as far as the politeness...I'm thinking over time, they grow out of rudeness, but who knows?

post #12 of 14
Thread Starter 

Because I fought with my dad over LOTS of stuff I do what I can to avoid fighting with my kids. My daughter is more likely to giggle than fight so she's never an issue. My son inhereted stubborness from both sides of the family. Everything's been challenging for a long time. Eye exercises started out as fun for him, but he does not like to be told what to do and will fight whenever he is (and it doesn't happen that often.) His visual acuity is fine but his eyes don't work together as well as they should so he is doing exercises. Since my husband wears coke bottles for glasses we are hoping this will prevent our son from going there.


However, many days ago my son saw me working on a response to this thread. He ased what I was doing and I explained I was trying to learn how to teach him to be polite. He said, "I don't want you to do that." And life has been good ever since. He just did his third set of exercises without more than some balking. I can't believe how much easier it's been. I guess he decided to be polite.

post #13 of 14
I just raise my eyebrows or say "excuse me?" During one stage I did tell my DD "that is not how people speak to me and that isn't how they should speak to you either " and a few times I dropped the "that's not how you speak to your mother" line. I also make sure to stop not give her what she wants then lecture or fume but to actually require her to speak to me the same way I speak to her. I am a big believer in the idea that we teach others how to treat us and I have definitely used these lines in different ways with other adults and my supervisor when he was behaving unprofessionally. They are lines I hope she will use also.
post #14 of 14
Hi, OP! I am SO in your boat right now. In the thick of this harsh, aggressive, rude and sometimes physically violent behavior. And it feels like it's at the drop of a hat sometimes. I'm considering eliminating gluten, as I've noticed our consumption has gone way up lately, as have these behaviors. But there are other circumstances for us that could also play a role. I just started working part-time evenings, DH had a bad attitude all last week and weekend from stress, and DS seemed to react with this type of behavior as a result. Are there any new circumstances that could be triggering this for your DS?

I sure hope some more folks chime in, because the "try again" type of advice does little good for his rudeness, and sometimes escalates it! There must be some way... I am with you, and hoping you all can resolve this issue soon. It is hard to see how perfectly sweet they can be only to be suddenly faced with a raging monster child. HUGS!
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