Everyday Parenting: Dealing with ‘Rudeness’

This post is part of a series documenting everyday respectful parenting moments. Reading real life parenting examples inspires me. I also find it helpful to look back on situations and think about what went well or what didn’t. Maybe you will too!

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Everyday Parenting: Dealing with Rudeness

Miss 6 is talking to her friend over the fence. I come out to give the little girl a message that I want her to tell her Mum…

Me: ‘Good morning!’

Friend: ‘Good morning.’

Me: I start explaining and Miss 6 cuts me off…

Miss 6: ‘I’ve already told her!’

Me: ‘Ok. I just wanted to say…’

Miss 6: ‘I SAID I’ve already told her.’

Me: ‘I heard you. I just wanted to explain.’

Miss 6: ‘I’ve already told her! Now buzz off Mum!’

Me: I feel angry at the way she has spoken to me. I want to tell her DO NOT speak to me like that and insist she comes inside now because she has been so rude. Thankfully some rational thoughts come to me and I decide to walk away and think about what to say instead of retaliating in the heat of the moment. I say ‘I don’t like it when you speak to me like that’ and walk back inside, shutting the door behind me (and honestly wanting to lock it and tell her to stay outside until she’s in a better mood). I hear her say ‘whatever‘ as I walk off, making me more cranky.

Inside, with some space, I try to think about what might be going on for her. This week I’m really trying to focus on the fact that ALL behaviour is communication. She is not being rude for no reason. This is my girl. She is not rude. This is really not typical behaviour for her. Something must be bothering her. She’s not trying to be rude, she’s just having a hard time. I remember that this morning she couldn’t find one of her special teddy bears and was worried it might have gotten caught up in her sheets and put in the washing machine. I was rushing around trying to do things with the younger girls and not as understanding as I could have been. I brushed off her feelings because it wasn’t a big deal to me. I cut her off, just as she cut me off. Did I make her feel like what she had to say wasn’t important, just like she has made me feel now?

Yesterday afternoon she and her sister also broke the trampoline netting which they were very upset about. It’s hard dealing with natural consequences and the disappointment of something you have caused. She was probably reminded of this when she went outside this morning too. Maybe one or both of these things were bothering her?

Twenty minutes later she comes back in and I feel calmer and more understanding so I go to talk to her.

Me: ‘I didn’t like it when you said ‘buzz off’ to me before. I’ve never heard you say that. I’m wondering if there’s something bothering you?’

Miss 6: (Immediately I see tears in her eyes and I know she’s sorry for speaking that way to me) ‘I’m sorry Mum.’

Me: ‘You look upset.’

Miss 6: ‘I’d already told her what you were saying.’

Me: ‘I know that, I just wanted to make sure she knew all of it. Is there something else?’

Miss 6: (crying) ‘I still can’t find White Teddy. She’s my favourite teddy and I can’t sleep without her! And I wanted to go on the trampoline but then I saw that it was still broken and I love the trampoline.’

Me: ‘It sounds like you weren’t feeling very good and that maybe that made you speak in a way you wouldn’t usually.’

Miss 6: ‘Yes. I’m sorry Mum.’

Me: ‘I understand now. I can help you look for your teddy. Do you need a cuddle?’

Miss 6: ‘Yes please.’

Everyday Parenting: Dealing with Rudeness

Wow, I’m so glad I walked away and didn’t react in anger and indignation. In these kinds of situations parents are often tempted to punish. But what would punishment do? Would it help me understand? Would she have told me what was really going on? Would our relationship be closer? Or would it have caused more tension between us? I know the answers.

Punishment addresses the behaviour, sure. But behaviours are communication. And don’t we all want to know what’s behind them so we can help our kids with their feelings and worries? Punishment makes it less likely that you’ll find out.

Today I am thankful for patience, and understanding, and little girls who aren’t afraid to tell me to buzz off.

12 thoughts on “Everyday Parenting: Dealing with ‘Rudeness’

  1. 😢 crying as I read this. What incredibly lucky girls to have you as their Mumma. It can be really had to have that patience and insight in the heat of the moment. What a lovely reminder to ‘walk away and think’.

  2. Oh wow I totally needed to read this today. I’ve been having a really rough time with my seven year old son. We’ve both been rude to each other. Thank you for the helpful reminders and example of how you handled it. It is hard in the moment to think of the other person. You are amazing and your girls are so lucky to have you!!

  3. Good one! Thank you for writing this. When you posted that quote on instagram the other day (“All behavior is communication,” I think it said) I had just spent the day with my two nieces (3,5 and 2,5 years old). One of them tends to act out a lot, especially out in public, and her parents (who are otherwise lovely people) just scold her and punish her for it. Meanwhile, I’m thinking “what on earth is going that makes her act this way?” I still haven’t figured it out.

    Of course, as someone who isn’t her parent, I can’t really judge. I’m sure her parents are really trying to do the right thing. Still, she’s always acting this way and it bothers me that all she hears is “you’re being bad” and “time out” when she’s a really sweet girl.

    Anyway, long story short…interesting to hear your experience with one of your daughters. It gives me even more to think about.

    • Oh ‘you’re being bad’ makes me so sad. I hate to hear that.
      I would be tempted just to comment like ‘I wonder what’s going on for her that she’s acting like this at the moment, it seems like she’s really having a hard time’ or something like that. Might get them thinking and seeing things in a different light. Also, you are such an awesome Aunty!

  4. Thanks for this post – I badly needed to hear this today. My daughter and I are currently in a cycle of being horrible to each other in recent days. We’re both stressed and tired lately and a teething cranky baby sister doesn’t help. It all makes it harder to stay calm and compassionate and I most certainly have not been the kind of parent I want to be and should be. So…big deep breaths and a step back is in order here.
    (I’m still trying to work out how you manage to respond thoughtfully to four children when more than one of them needs you at a time – I get completely frazzled with just two.)

  5. That was very inspiring. Thank you for sharing. I have a little girl of my own that can be very rude and nasty to me and her dad A LOT. She is not my oldest (7yrs), but rather my 3yr old. We have a very hard time communicating with her. I’m sure she feels the same. However, the worst part to deal with is how quickly she can go from being really sweet and sometimes very respectful to being very stubborn with a lot of “No”s and refusing to cooperate. I am at a loss on what to do. This article reminded me of the everyday struggles I have with her. Is there any suggestions or advice you can? Or anyone for that matter?

    • I always found 3 years old the hardest year! What kind of things is she refusing to cooperate with? I would probably have a look at that and see what are necessary requests and what are not. Sometimes I get in a habit of being too demanding or saying no a lot and then when I do have to say no about something they are less likely to listen because they hear it all the time. Try to save the demands for things she really MUST do.
      What do you think her behaviour is telling you in certain situations? Maybe that she’s not capable of doing what you ask and needs more help? Maybe she’s feeling disconnected at the moment? Maybe she has some big feelings she can’t handle and needs help with? Maybe it’s something external like hunger, tiredness, etc? That’s the little checklist I try to run through 🙂

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