He's rude to grandparents

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  March 26, 2010 06:00 AM

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Hi -- I have a 9-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter. They're as different as chalk and cheese. My 5-year-old is laid back, happy go lucky, and everyone loves her.  My 9-year-old is far more complex, quiet, impatient, and internalizes everything.

We just had my elderly parents staying, who as people are quite judgmental and negative. My 9-year-old really picks up on this and is quite rude and intolerant to them.

How do I deal with this?

From: Saraloud, Surbiton

 

 

Dear Saraloud,

This is tricky and probably needs your intervention on two fronts: The first is to remind your parents that he's sensitive, that you know how much they love him, but can they try to go easy on him. Give them some examples. They will be defensive, so I wouldn't go too far down this path. Just enough to make the point.

More important is to talk to your son. Is it possible he's picking up some of this rudeness from you? If your parents are judgmental of you and you respond with sarcasm or who knows what, you may unwittingly be giving your children permission to respond in kind.

Whether they have always been judgmental or this is a product of their aging, give an honest assessment to your son: "You know, when I was your age, my parents would sometimes say things that hurt my feelings. Sometimes, they still do. I'm not sure why they do that, I think they can't help themselves, but I still love them."

Then talk about how important it is to you to be respectful  of everyone, but especially parents and grandparents. You can say that's sometimes hard, that sometimes you aren't as respectful as you would like to be, but you are always trying and hope he is, too. (Say that even if it isn't 100% true; it'll be easier for him to be sympathetic.) Offer to help him (or each other): If he feels inclined to be rude, have a non-verbal signal between you so you can stifle the urge. That's a great way for the two of you to bond in a positive way over a negative interaction! Also help him to be assertive in a pro-active way: "How can you let grandma know she hurt your feelings without  being rude to her? Can you say, 'Grandma, what you said hurts my feelings. I do want to help you, though."

Criticizing or punishing him for his rudeness, while it might get temporary compliance, will only build resentment and won't have a lasting effect on his  behavior.

I answer a question from a reader every weekday. If you want help with
some aspect of child-rearing, just write to me here.


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15 comments so far...
  1. Are they judgmental and negative to your son? Because it is awfully hard to tell a child that he must be polite and respectful to be people who are rude to him. Clarification of that would help -- if they are generally judgmental and negative but he is not a target of rudeness, your efforts at guiding him to be polite towards them will go a lot easier.

    Either way -- but especially if the grandparents are actually rude, not just negative, to your son -- would be to talk in terms of being civil and polite, rather than in terms of being respectful. Maintaining good manners and being polite is an easier sell, and frankly I think a more important one. Using the "respect" language tends to imply feeling something, rather than acting in some way (even if you use the word as Barbara did) and it will feel false to a kid who is a target of mean people,. But telling him to be polite is simply telling him how to act. And telling him to act on the old saying "two wrongs don't make a right." You, and he, should acknowledge if they are behaving badly to him and/or others; but emphasize that even when others are rude, we must take the high road and be polite.

    Posted by jlen March 26, 10 09:46 AM
  1. If your parents are being judgemental about your child, stand up to them. Just because they're elderly doesn't mean they have the right to be jerks to a kid.

    I say tell the grandparents to be nice or leave. It's your child's home and it's far more important that the child feel safe.

    Posted by C March 26, 10 01:13 PM
  1. I think jlen makes a good point in commenting that the "respect" language may be confusing to a kid, and ultimately be dangerous in that it would dilute the real seriousness of what respect actually is. Politeness and tolerance is another thing, and seems more appropriate in this situation.

    I might also like to add that ultimately, this isn't about the grandparents at all. It is about this 9 year old boy. The parents do a disservice to deflect responsibility for the boy's actions away from the boy, instead saying that the boy "internalizes" and "picks up on" others' poor manners.

    The child will spend a lifetime around people who are ignorant, rude, and completely unworthy of respect. This includes teachers, coaches, classmates, and eventually employers. Yet the measure of the boy's success will always rely on the ability of the boy to maintain tolerance and good manners around these people.

    So while I agree that Barbara's advice to "make an honest assessment" to the boy is helpful, I think the parent must go one step further and emphasize that even when people behave poorly, it is always the responsibility of the child to be polite and well mannered. Because when the child is not, it is the child (and only the child) who suffers the repercussions.

    Posted by Sarah B March 26, 10 01:16 PM
  1. I think it is important to remember that part of your job as a parent is to protect your child. I agree that letting him know that you realize that they are not always kind people is very important. It gives him permission to feel the way he does, which all of us do when encountered by people like this.

    I think it is also important to remind him that he can walk out of a room and not subject himself to their bad behavior. It is the role of the parent to step in and tell the grandparents that they are going too far.

    While reminding him to be polite in the face of rudeness is important, it is also important to protect him from what is essentially bullying by people older, stronger and perceived to be more powerful than him. Maybe grandma and grandpa can stay at a hotel next time?

    Posted by pickupsticks March 26, 10 02:28 PM
  1. This blog is a wonderful support group for negligent parents of rude children. Obviously, by "judgmental," the letter writer means, "refusing to tolerate any behavior he chooses to dish out, like I do." The precious dears can never be in the wrong, nor have a lesson to learn, now can they?

    How ironic it will be when you are old, and can wonder why your son is treating you as badly as you let him treat your parents, as you sit in the filthy squalor of the county nursing home where he has ditched you.

    Posted by What is the name of your fantasy world? March 26, 10 04:09 PM
  1. This isn't a problem I think I'd ever encounter, because in MY house people must follow MY rules. My rules include not being negative and judgmental. Don't like that? Stay the heck out of my house. I don't care who it is--YOU teach people how to treat you and your family. If you wouldn't tolerate it from a stranger, you shouldn't tolerate it from your elderly relatives.

    Since you're not very clear on what exactly your son's "rude behavior" comprises, it's hard to gauge. Is your son refusing to listen to your parents spew racial or homophobic epithets, for example? Is he calling them out on their own rude behavior towards him? Because that's not "rude"--that's the kind of child I hope to raise, personally. One who stands up for himself and his beliefs.

    Really, the best advice I think anyone can give you is to keep nasty, negative people away from your children. You don't "owe" anyone anything, and if emotional abuse is coming into the equation, you should be protecting your children, not adults who know better. My parents certainly know better than to ever step over that line if they hope to remain in contact with me and my children.

    Pickupsticks gives great advice--bullying of any kind shouldn't be tolerated, remember that.

    Oh, and children who are properly protected by their parents rarely ditch them in squalid nursing homes, I'd say.

    Posted by Amanda March 26, 10 05:36 PM
  1. Maybe your kid is a total brat and his grandparents can't stand him.

    Ever consider that?

    Posted by Shecky March 26, 10 07:32 PM
  1. Judgmental and negative grandparents are not new. Equating that to "bullying" is new.....

    It's an opportunity to teach the kid that some (many) people don't put his feelings first, and he needs to learn to deal with it. It's how the world works.

    Posted by SettleDown March 26, 10 08:27 PM
  1. I have a 6 year old who is rude to my mom. My mom is really the nicest person in the world. It baffles me. I think it stems from when my mom would pick her up from daycare while I was at work. My child would get made that I was not there and take it out on my mom. There is no excuse for it. And I've done everything from putting her in her room, to taking away a doll, to positive reinforcement for when it doesn't happen. Yet it still lingers. Our child therapist told me to tell my mom (and dad because she does it to him too!) to realize she is a child and they are adults... thus not to take it personally. But ther is no excue for bad behavior. UGH. Help!

    Posted by Sharon March 26, 10 09:42 PM
  1. Children learn their core behavior from their PARENTS! I suspect that your behavior is equating to your childs reaction.

    First, children should be taught to be respectful to all adults. However, you need to instill that the WORLD is not always a nice place, filled with nice people! That is just the way it is.

    If this child does not learn this from you then he will receive a much more difficult lesson from the world, which will not be as tolerant!

    Posted by Barbara B. March 27, 10 12:24 AM
  1. What goes around, comes around. I never had children but my ex-husband's parents were the worst bigots I had ever had the misfortune to know. Rude children do not deserve anything from their grandparents and should be punished as the parents see fit or be given a dose of their own rudeness in return. Why do were tolerate brats?

    Posted by Liz Pakula March 27, 10 11:14 AM
  1. My grandmother once called my mother a dirty Jew. (Never mind that both of her sons converted, never mind that she dotes on my (far-more-religious) aunt.)
    I was twelve-- old enough to understand that this was Not Okay, and that it was less about her religious hangups and more about making my mother inferior.
    My "tolerance" of that sort of thing from family is (and was) non-existent-- and it was the end of my respect (already on the wane because of the way she treated both of my parents) for her. It was also the end of any affection I felt for her.
    (Have I been rude to her since? Hard to say. It depends on whether she understood my sarcasm as such, and whether her hearing was up to the task. Probably not, and certainly not in the last few years. If lack of repentance makes me a bad relative and a horrible person, I'm proud of it.)

    The bottom line? If there's a reason for the rudeness that the kid displays (perhaps his shortcomings were discussed in front of him? Perhaps *your* shortcomings were discussed in front of him?) you need to find out that reason and address it while (or even before) you try to teach tolerance. Otherwise, he keeps hearing it over and over, and he grows to hate meeting up with them because of the restraint required in the face of whatever he's heard.

    Posted by MNGrad March 27, 10 12:29 PM
  1. Sharon - You are clueless. There is no need to feel guilty about not spending 100% of your time with your child.

    Posted by Peter March 27, 10 02:45 PM
  1. You might want to read up on Asperger's Syndrome as your son may not be "rude" but have a development delay that limits his communication skills and understanding of the perspectives of other, characteristic of Asperger's. Social skills training will help him understand how to communicate and empathize better. I should know. I was once a rude 9 year old and not diagnosed as AS until well into adulthood. The training would have helped for the better. Most of the time I still cannot communicate my feeling or understand where other are coming from. But he is still a child. I'm sure he loves his grandparents deep inside. Best wishes.

    Posted by Stephanie March 27, 10 06:31 PM
  1. "First, children should be taught to be respectful to all adults."

    Does that include the Hitlers of the world, too, Barbara B? Or the pedophiles? Or the teacher who ignores bullying?

    Get a clue. Just because one is an adult does not mean s/he deserves respect.

    Posted by reindeergirl March 29, 10 06:23 PM
 
15 comments so far...
  1. Are they judgmental and negative to your son? Because it is awfully hard to tell a child that he must be polite and respectful to be people who are rude to him. Clarification of that would help -- if they are generally judgmental and negative but he is not a target of rudeness, your efforts at guiding him to be polite towards them will go a lot easier.

    Either way -- but especially if the grandparents are actually rude, not just negative, to your son -- would be to talk in terms of being civil and polite, rather than in terms of being respectful. Maintaining good manners and being polite is an easier sell, and frankly I think a more important one. Using the "respect" language tends to imply feeling something, rather than acting in some way (even if you use the word as Barbara did) and it will feel false to a kid who is a target of mean people,. But telling him to be polite is simply telling him how to act. And telling him to act on the old saying "two wrongs don't make a right." You, and he, should acknowledge if they are behaving badly to him and/or others; but emphasize that even when others are rude, we must take the high road and be polite.

    Posted by jlen March 26, 10 09:46 AM
  1. If your parents are being judgemental about your child, stand up to them. Just because they're elderly doesn't mean they have the right to be jerks to a kid.

    I say tell the grandparents to be nice or leave. It's your child's home and it's far more important that the child feel safe.

    Posted by C March 26, 10 01:13 PM
  1. I think jlen makes a good point in commenting that the "respect" language may be confusing to a kid, and ultimately be dangerous in that it would dilute the real seriousness of what respect actually is. Politeness and tolerance is another thing, and seems more appropriate in this situation.

    I might also like to add that ultimately, this isn't about the grandparents at all. It is about this 9 year old boy. The parents do a disservice to deflect responsibility for the boy's actions away from the boy, instead saying that the boy "internalizes" and "picks up on" others' poor manners.

    The child will spend a lifetime around people who are ignorant, rude, and completely unworthy of respect. This includes teachers, coaches, classmates, and eventually employers. Yet the measure of the boy's success will always rely on the ability of the boy to maintain tolerance and good manners around these people.

    So while I agree that Barbara's advice to "make an honest assessment" to the boy is helpful, I think the parent must go one step further and emphasize that even when people behave poorly, it is always the responsibility of the child to be polite and well mannered. Because when the child is not, it is the child (and only the child) who suffers the repercussions.

    Posted by Sarah B March 26, 10 01:16 PM
  1. I think it is important to remember that part of your job as a parent is to protect your child. I agree that letting him know that you realize that they are not always kind people is very important. It gives him permission to feel the way he does, which all of us do when encountered by people like this.

    I think it is also important to remind him that he can walk out of a room and not subject himself to their bad behavior. It is the role of the parent to step in and tell the grandparents that they are going too far.

    While reminding him to be polite in the face of rudeness is important, it is also important to protect him from what is essentially bullying by people older, stronger and perceived to be more powerful than him. Maybe grandma and grandpa can stay at a hotel next time?

    Posted by pickupsticks March 26, 10 02:28 PM
  1. This blog is a wonderful support group for negligent parents of rude children. Obviously, by "judgmental," the letter writer means, "refusing to tolerate any behavior he chooses to dish out, like I do." The precious dears can never be in the wrong, nor have a lesson to learn, now can they?

    How ironic it will be when you are old, and can wonder why your son is treating you as badly as you let him treat your parents, as you sit in the filthy squalor of the county nursing home where he has ditched you.

    Posted by What is the name of your fantasy world? March 26, 10 04:09 PM
  1. This isn't a problem I think I'd ever encounter, because in MY house people must follow MY rules. My rules include not being negative and judgmental. Don't like that? Stay the heck out of my house. I don't care who it is--YOU teach people how to treat you and your family. If you wouldn't tolerate it from a stranger, you shouldn't tolerate it from your elderly relatives.

    Since you're not very clear on what exactly your son's "rude behavior" comprises, it's hard to gauge. Is your son refusing to listen to your parents spew racial or homophobic epithets, for example? Is he calling them out on their own rude behavior towards him? Because that's not "rude"--that's the kind of child I hope to raise, personally. One who stands up for himself and his beliefs.

    Really, the best advice I think anyone can give you is to keep nasty, negative people away from your children. You don't "owe" anyone anything, and if emotional abuse is coming into the equation, you should be protecting your children, not adults who know better. My parents certainly know better than to ever step over that line if they hope to remain in contact with me and my children.

    Pickupsticks gives great advice--bullying of any kind shouldn't be tolerated, remember that.

    Oh, and children who are properly protected by their parents rarely ditch them in squalid nursing homes, I'd say.

    Posted by Amanda March 26, 10 05:36 PM
  1. Maybe your kid is a total brat and his grandparents can't stand him.

    Ever consider that?

    Posted by Shecky March 26, 10 07:32 PM
  1. Judgmental and negative grandparents are not new. Equating that to "bullying" is new.....

    It's an opportunity to teach the kid that some (many) people don't put his feelings first, and he needs to learn to deal with it. It's how the world works.

    Posted by SettleDown March 26, 10 08:27 PM
  1. I have a 6 year old who is rude to my mom. My mom is really the nicest person in the world. It baffles me. I think it stems from when my mom would pick her up from daycare while I was at work. My child would get made that I was not there and take it out on my mom. There is no excuse for it. And I've done everything from putting her in her room, to taking away a doll, to positive reinforcement for when it doesn't happen. Yet it still lingers. Our child therapist told me to tell my mom (and dad because she does it to him too!) to realize she is a child and they are adults... thus not to take it personally. But ther is no excue for bad behavior. UGH. Help!

    Posted by Sharon March 26, 10 09:42 PM
  1. Children learn their core behavior from their PARENTS! I suspect that your behavior is equating to your childs reaction.

    First, children should be taught to be respectful to all adults. However, you need to instill that the WORLD is not always a nice place, filled with nice people! That is just the way it is.

    If this child does not learn this from you then he will receive a much more difficult lesson from the world, which will not be as tolerant!

    Posted by Barbara B. March 27, 10 12:24 AM
  1. What goes around, comes around. I never had children but my ex-husband's parents were the worst bigots I had ever had the misfortune to know. Rude children do not deserve anything from their grandparents and should be punished as the parents see fit or be given a dose of their own rudeness in return. Why do were tolerate brats?

    Posted by Liz Pakula March 27, 10 11:14 AM
  1. My grandmother once called my mother a dirty Jew. (Never mind that both of her sons converted, never mind that she dotes on my (far-more-religious) aunt.)
    I was twelve-- old enough to understand that this was Not Okay, and that it was less about her religious hangups and more about making my mother inferior.
    My "tolerance" of that sort of thing from family is (and was) non-existent-- and it was the end of my respect (already on the wane because of the way she treated both of my parents) for her. It was also the end of any affection I felt for her.
    (Have I been rude to her since? Hard to say. It depends on whether she understood my sarcasm as such, and whether her hearing was up to the task. Probably not, and certainly not in the last few years. If lack of repentance makes me a bad relative and a horrible person, I'm proud of it.)

    The bottom line? If there's a reason for the rudeness that the kid displays (perhaps his shortcomings were discussed in front of him? Perhaps *your* shortcomings were discussed in front of him?) you need to find out that reason and address it while (or even before) you try to teach tolerance. Otherwise, he keeps hearing it over and over, and he grows to hate meeting up with them because of the restraint required in the face of whatever he's heard.

    Posted by MNGrad March 27, 10 12:29 PM
  1. Sharon - You are clueless. There is no need to feel guilty about not spending 100% of your time with your child.

    Posted by Peter March 27, 10 02:45 PM
  1. You might want to read up on Asperger's Syndrome as your son may not be "rude" but have a development delay that limits his communication skills and understanding of the perspectives of other, characteristic of Asperger's. Social skills training will help him understand how to communicate and empathize better. I should know. I was once a rude 9 year old and not diagnosed as AS until well into adulthood. The training would have helped for the better. Most of the time I still cannot communicate my feeling or understand where other are coming from. But he is still a child. I'm sure he loves his grandparents deep inside. Best wishes.

    Posted by Stephanie March 27, 10 06:31 PM
  1. "First, children should be taught to be respectful to all adults."

    Does that include the Hitlers of the world, too, Barbara B? Or the pedophiles? Or the teacher who ignores bullying?

    Get a clue. Just because one is an adult does not mean s/he deserves respect.

    Posted by reindeergirl March 29, 10 06:23 PM
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About the author

Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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