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Rudeness in public

745 Views 8 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  The4OfUs
I have a 3 1/2 year old boy. Often in public places, he is rude to strangers. For example, if someone says hi to him he might yell, "Go away, or stop talking!" Today in the bank, we had to wait so we sat on a couch. He got up after a few minutes and got on the floor. A minute later, an elderly lady came and sat where he had been sitting. He got very upset and yelled at her, "Hey that's my seat!" He said this to her a couple times. I feel like I totally failed. I tried to shush him and told him not to be rude, but I did not follow through with any real punishment. He acts up like this in public often. I have tried things such as: time out in the grocery cart, taking him out to the car and spank him, taking away a favorite toy when we get home. I can't seem to break the rude behavior. I guess I'm even more at a loss because I don't want to teach him that he has to be nice and talk to strangers, but I don't want blatant rudeness either. Any suggestions????

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how about a clear consequence each time he is rude like that. A 3 1/2 year old is more than capable of being at least polite to others. Maybe working on clear boundaries? It sounds like from your post that you try many different things; maybe the boundaries are too wishywashy because of this. Also modeling polite words at home and everywhere could help too.
on a side note, not to turn this into anti-spanking, but using that form of discipline is most likely not helping at all. he is rude to others, so the parent hits the child to teach not be rude? But we teach that hitting others is rude! Just a thought.
Maybe try some role playing out of the heat of the moment. First exaplin that certain things hurts people's feelings. Then do some play acting. He can be the old lady and you can be him. Then try the other way. This will not be a quick fix but nothing really is. We do this a lot and it helps difuse situations. My dd is too young to "act" so it is more like "discussion". But in the long run it does work.
I agree, violence will certainly not teach your child polite behavior.

I know it can be frustrating when we are embarrassed by our child's behavior. I know my son went through a time where he felt very self concious and uncomfortable when strangers engaged him in public. I tried to pre-empt his abrupt response by gently saying "ds does not feel like chatting right now but isn't the weather nice, etc" "or "yes he is a wonderful boy". My son also really values his personal space and never has liked to forcefully be hugged, etc by other kids. When they would come toward him in a loud, aggressive way I would always jump in and say "ds doesn't feel like hugging right now but I like hugs/handshakes/etc" (if I knew the child)

I think you need to look deeper into why your child is reacting to strangers in this way. It most certainly does not come from nowhere.

And please do model polite behavior as that is the best way to teach it

ETA - i reread your post. Your child may be feeling uncomfortable about being approached by strangers and is not quite able to verbalize it so he says "go away" Or maybe it feels that uncomfortable to him that he really does want people to leave him alone. It will most likely pass. He will also reach an age of understanding etiquette (many adults haven't reached it yet though, lol) and being in control of his emotions. My son is the most polite and friendly kid I know now. He just turned 5
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i think this is the age when children experiment with talking with strangers. the issue is not politeness per se. there are too many variables -- they are overwhelmed, focused on their new skill, focused on the impact they are having, eager to express their point of view, experimenting with their place in society.

dd, 4 in 2 month, will often tell strangers not to look at her brother. she tells them that he is her private baby. she can be quite forceful about it. certainly not 'polite'. i tell her quietely, without making any fuss, that people are free to look where they want to look. the same as we look at other people. she will sort this out.

on the other hand, she would often say hello to people, and ask how are they doing. loud and clear. and many people just ignore her. certainly they would not ignore an adult. she will sort this out too. she asks me why. i try to explain that some people don't pay attention, or don't feel like talking to her.

when someone approaches her, she might tell them loudly that she does not want to talk to them. she is just guarding her boundaries, in the same way as adults do. she will learn not to verbalise this, as her understanding of private thoughts vs. private expressions matures.

i can't imagine punishing her for this, or even imposing any kind of 'consequences'. except of telling her, at a quiet moment, that other people might feel offended, and that they only wanted to talk to her, but that it is okay for her not to talk to them. i might role-play a more 'polite' response, but i don't stress this. i'd rather she be vocal about her space with strangers, then be perceived 'polite' by people i don't care about. politeness comes from deeper understanding. when i talk to her about this, i see that she is not emotionally ready to understand the aspects involved in being polite. i have no worries that by seeing us being polite (or not, in certain situations, when more assertiveness is needed) she will learn this skill when she is ready.

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My ds is a wee bit younger than yours but he often acts like this in public too.

I have figured out that being in public in a new place or even a busy familar place is stressful for him and when people speak to/approach/touch him - it overloads him.

He really and truly wants them to go away or to be quiet etc.

I think the best way to handle it is to model polite behavior and to be an buffer between the other person and him.

I am amazed at how many people touch him or his toys and really invade his personal space. Kids really don't have any rights in this society it seems.

We role play/discuss how to handle it - i give him words to say etc. But I think he just can't quite put it all together yet.

I would try to not think of it as rudeness b/c I try to give him the benefit of the doubt.

That is what works for us.
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I would try to understand why he might be doing this - does he hear other people say things like this to strangers, has he heard it on TV, when he does this is he playing with other people or is he upset and angry with them ???
there are lots of questions to ask

if this were me I would definitely be very firm with my own reply to him ie. if he says something rude to somebody I would say clearly to him, please do not speak like that, you can sit with me/she can sit there/that is not your seat right now it is for anyone etc. and I would also say to the person themselves - I am sorry, please take the seat/ sorry about that etc.

he can only learn to be polite if that is what people around him are modelling
I would probably do something like this:

- Say something to DS like, "Honey, this is a public space and anyone can sit in an empty seat."
- Then turn to the woman and say, "I'm sorry, that wasn't very polite."
- Then back to DS and say, "People like to be asked or told politely about things, not shouted at." I've been workig on this with DS a little lately, he seems to be getting into a "bossy" stage right now.

Then, later in the car or something, maybe get into a little more, "I know you may have wanted to sit in that seat again, but I'm sure that lady didn't appreciate you shouting at her like that. There are gentle ways to ask someone to do soemthing, and people respond better when they're not yelled at. You could say, Please don't sit there, or, Excuse me, I was just going to sit there, or something like that." It's always helpful to give them something TO say or do, since often they don't know what to say or do and that's why the 'rudeness' or bluntness comes out.

I actually JUST had a conversation with DS this morning, as he shouted "don't touch it!" when I went to play with him with one of his toys. I said, "If you'd like me to not touch something, you can say please don't touch, mommy. I don't like beign shouted at." Know what? He looked at me for a couple seconds, and said, "no touch mommy peez", and I said, "OK, thank you for being gentle" and got a different toy.

AND, ITA with the PP who mentioned modeling. Modeling is the single most influential way to help your children navigate through social situations, as far as I'm concerned. So, model your response to his rudeness as the way you'd like him to be with other people - don't reflect his rudeness back to him, or he'll just continue to do it.

Also want to agree with the PP that spanking him for being rude is not the way to handle it - basically, that's teaching him that when someone does something you don't approve of (i.e., you didn't approve of his rudeness), you should hit them...what's to stop him from hitting someone the next time they're doign something he doesn't like, instead of just shouting at them?

You can be firm, model, give guidance, and still be gentle and's entirely possible.
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