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Yes Kids, It’s Okay to be Rude!

We spend the vast majority of our parenting journey teaching our kids to be nice. We teach them to be kind and caring. We read books on encouraging empathy in our kids and how to foster gentleness in them. It IS important for our children to learn tact, social etiquette and how to be independent members of society. However, it is equally important to teach them to stand up for themselves, to be confident, to speak truth, to defend the defenseless, to RISE UP. Sometimes these two messages that we want our children to learn contradict each other. Sometimes we focus on the niceties, fairness, what is socially acceptable and culturally prominent. Is this imbalance hurting our kids?

Yes Kids, It's Okay to be Rude | No one wants to raise rude kids, but in our effort to teach them to be nice, are we missing the mark? Parenting tips | parenting blog | parenting advice |


The Day I Realized We Had a Problem.

One day I was out at the grocery store with my kids. We parked our 15 passenger “bus” and began the arduous unloading experience. While I was dangling a toddler mid air, of course wearing only 1 shoe, a young man approached us. It was instantly apparent to me that he was wasted, and equally apparent that he was in fact so wasted he was not a threat to my kids at all. My mommy radar satisfied, I warily continued searching for the darn shoe that was evading my every effort to find it. My eldest son is now 9 years old. As the eldest he has a sort of built in responsibility factor that the others do not. Chalk it up to birth order or personality, but the reality is, he is dependable, easy going, and incredibly “good”.

rude kids

The man began joking around asking for a ride to the pub (about 15 steps away). We chuckled politely while I gave up and jammed a random boot I had found on my 2 year olds chubby little foot. Kids successfully out of the vehicle, we were closing up the bus when my son had an amazing learning experience. This young man turned his attention to my son saying, “This is a strong young man, he can carry me!” At this point, my attention was focused entirely on what was unfolding. I knew my son, I knew the state of this man, and I was curious to see how it would play out (remember I was just an arms reach away). Rather than intervening, I allowed my son to respond. He chuckled, his eyes darting back and forth towards me, a little bit “deer in the headlights” while he tried to come up with a polite answer.

Of course, lacking the tact and social boundaries I so carefully had instilled in my son, this young man was not so easily deterred. “You’re strong, you can do it!” he uttered as he put his leg around my sons back and began climbing on for a piggy back. At this point, my 9 year old was incredibly uncomfortable. The man got off and I decided to step in, smiling kindly I ushered my little ducklings to a more comfortable distance (my little ones are maybe a bit young for lessons of this magnitude). I waited for my son to say something but we were now in grocery shopping mode and he stayed silent. It wasn’t until we were in the car that I finally broached the subject with him. Super caszh, cuz I’m cool like that, I asked him, “How did that make you feel?”

rude kids

“Yes son, it’s okay to be rude.”

We talked. We didn’t have a book to help us, a curriculum to go through. It was just him and I in the front of a car talking about the balance between self confidence and being strong and secure and yet still being kindhearted. And I told my gentle, sensitive son that it was okay to be rude. You see, we need to teach our kids that adults don’t hold the trump card. We need to teach them that it is okay to have boundaries, no matter how that makes someone else feel. We need to teach them that HOW we speak to other people is important, but it should never compromise our values, personal boundaries, or convictions. We need to stop being “nice” and start being real with our kids. Only then will they see that it is okay to take a stand and it is possible to find a balance between tact and saying no.

Obviously we don’t want to have rude kids according to the world’s standards. I didn’t tell my son to finger anyone or stick his tongue out. I told him that he can step away, he can put his hand out. That if joking and innuendos aren’t getting through to someone it is okay to change your expression, to be serious. That the time to worry about someone else’s feelings is gone and now it is time to stand up, or walk away, or get real. You see, I am not interested in raising a generation of children who are nice, fake, putting on a face for the sake of everyone else, people pleasers. I am raising my children to be bold, strong, unique, and confident.

What do you think? Rude Kids– going too far? Comment below

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  1. Wow! I cannot believe that you allowed a drunk stranger to put his leg on your 9 year-old son’s back and try to mount him for a piggy back ride! Come on, mama! Yes, our kids need to learn what to do in situations, but they should also be able to trust their mom standing a few feet away to protect them and not stand there watching while they are accosted by a drunk stranger. I would have felt completely betrayed in addition to all those other things.

    • It happened really fast Sally, as soon as it did, as I said I stepped in. The guy was already off and I grabbed my kids’ arms and kind of pushed past him. I was letting it play out as far as what was happening at the time, which was conversation, I wanted to see what my son would do, and I don’t always want to step in because how else will he ever learn? I did not anticipate he would climb on his back, and we moved on as quickly as we could, but he definitely didn’t feel betrayed. We talked about it in depth and we used the experience as a way to teach him that it is okay to be assertive. Which he didn’t do anything because he thought he would be rude, and that was what I felt like I needed to address in him… that if he considers that rude, to say NO to push someone away, to step back, that it was okay to be rude in a situation like that.

  2. I really don’t think the 9 year old was being rude. Seems he was doing something that just came natural for him and it worked out for the best. Sounds like he has a great mom. 🙂

  3. Bravo Mom!
    It is best to see how they handle situations, while you are still near, before they have to handle them alone. I think your point was to demonstrate a situation where being unpolite to adults is not only okay, but necessary at times. It is also on the same lines as letting a child speak their minds and be heard, rather than tell them to “not speak unless spoken to”.
    You are raising strong kids with strong minds. Bravo!?

  4. What you describe is not what I would call rude. It is assertive. I don’t think it is rude to say no to a situation you are not comfortable with. A simple “no thanks” should be all that is required. Children do need to be taught to be nice and kind but not to the point that they let others treat them like doormats or agree to do things because they don’t feel comfortable saying no.

  5. As a mom of a child with several layers of learning issues, we too have struggled with setting boundaries with people who are less than kind with my child. Words or actions can be hurtful to everyone. I think your son didn’t know how to navigate that situation so it was great that you guys had that conversation. However I think it is important for our kids to ‘find their voice’ – firm, clear but not being rude – moving away if needed – rude is the wrong word here because it carries a disrespectful and hurtful connotation. Jesus was never anyone’s doormat true – he was direct and firm but never rude in a put down sort of way. The world doesn’t need more rude kids (or adults for that matter). It needs more people to set boundaries in a firm and clear way. That is how I believe we set an example as a Christian to the rest of the world. Stand up – let your voice be heard but don’t put down.

  6. Hi. I realize hindsight is 20/20 and I’m glad that nothing bad actually happened that day. Since you are using this event as an opportunity for learning, as a self defense expert, I’d like to add a few things for the sake of helping (this is not an attack on you as I realize you did the best you could).
    It was good that you checked with your instinct/mama radar first. However, even when we think there is no danger, in such a situation, I would err towards caution. People under the influence of alcohol/drugs are unpredictable. Maybe his first intent could have been innocent and then he could have become angry/violent. Maybe he had a weapon (knife) and wouldn’t have hesitated to use it if he got frustrated. For that reason, I would suggest always keeping a safe distance from the potential threat (since you saw him coming).
    The first line of action would have been to put down the little one who was in your hands, so that you would not be hindered should you need to step in immediately. Ideally, I would have ushered all small kids back into the car, or at the very least, I would have made sure the car was in between you and the stranger.
    If you decided to keep the older one out for learning purposes, he should have been next to you (slightly behind you ideally). At no point, should any of you have had your back turned to the stranger. (I’m going to assume your son had his back turned at some point since the stranger climbed on it).
    The lesson to teach our children is this: no one should invade your personal space. If a drugged out stranger comes close, you should retreat while keeping eye contact (if you don’t feel immediate threat) or strike (if you feel immediate threat). Striking for a child might be yelling for help, or running away; for adults it may mean actual physical altercation. The distance should always remain the same between the stranger and you. And you should urge the stranger to not step closer. Once they break that distance, they are an active threat.
    Once that stranger made physical contact with your son, in such an inappropriate manner, YOU should have been rude. Your post only mentions “smiling kindly and ushering the little ones…”. I believe teaching your son to be assertive and rude should have started with him seeing you tell this man that his behavior was completely inappropriate and that he needs to step back immediately and take this somewhere else. Making some distance and pulling out your phone to dial 911 couldn’t have hurt either.
    I think everything you said in the last paragraph of your essay is right on, it just doesn’t seem that you used any of it during that particular event.
    I hope it is a lesson learned and one that will benefit others who may end up in the same situation.
    Wishing you well. Aloha, Sarah

    • I agree with all Sarah said here! You have all the right intentions but not sure you executed them in this instance. 20/20 hindsight I’m sure. Thankful everyone was safe.

  7. Everyone moms differently but I think you did a fantastic job. I also think the word rude was just fine to use in the situation. Kids are taught not to argue or talk back to their parents or any adult. They are taught that is rude and disrespectful and that’s why your son didn’t know how to respond because he has never been in that type of situation and it it probably seemed rude for him to say something. As adults we know the difference between being assertive and rude, kids need to learn. It sounds like he is a good, smart kid so you wanted to see if he could figure it out on his own. I do agree that if the drunk man was that close to your son you should have stepped in a little earlier. I have been around homeless and drunk people my entire life, anyone could have a knife or gun and we should always be cautious, especially with our children, but there was no need to be afraid of the situation, nor would it be necessary to call 911 unless you thought the man needed help. For a man that drunk, there is no manners or boundaries that you can try to expect them to follow. I know from experience, making a big deal or telling a drunk man to back off rudely will most likely cause them to become angry and then you would have a bad situation. Ignoring the man and politely walking away, even if he addresses you, is ideal because the less you interact with a drunk person the less you are a target. You handled it well and calm and it sounds like you were right there watching the entire thing go down.
    Great lesson to learn. Love your blog too!

  8. Exactly! Christians think that in order to be kind, loving, forgiving, “Christian”, it means they have to let bad behavior slide. They end up being weak, ineffectual, and cowardly. I think it’s important to teach our kids how to be kind, loving, and forgiving. How to love like Jesus calls us to love, while still being strong and bold.

  9. I do agree with the principle that our children need to be taught and encouraged to have boundaries, however I am very intentional with the words that we choose to use in our home, and I would say that we train up our children to be kind, not nice. There is a big difference in being kind and being nice. Also, I do not feel rude is the appropriate word either. I agree with that assertive better describes the situation that occurred. I would never want to teach my children it is okay to be rude, however there is nothing wrong with being assertive and saying no when something makes them uncomfortable! Good teaching moment as a mother for you though!

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