7 Rude Behaviors in Kids to Stop Now

How stop these bad behavior habits when you see them

rude behavior - kids sticking out their tongues
Steer your kids away from rude behavior habits before they take root. Christin Rose/Getty Images

If you've ever been around rude children, you know how extremely unpleasant it is (and that's putting it mildly). Of course, it's not fair--nor realistic--to expect children to be on their best behavior at all times. After all, none of us are born knowing how to use good manners and etiquette--it's something kids have to learn and practice before it becomes something they can be expected to do routinely.

And kids are naturally self-centered and can have their off-moments when they’re tired and cranky. In other words, it’s perfectly normal for them to occasionally forget to say "Thank you" or "Please." But kids should at least be trying to remember to use good manners, and parents should be vigilant and consistent about correcting their children when they them exercising see rude behavior.

Why is it so important to stop rude behavior in children? Beyond the fact that it’s just unpleasant to be around, it can be sad to see kids behaving horribly. When kids are ill-mannered and rude, they are a living example of a missed opportunity. Instead of a pleasant, kind, grateful, and happy person who knows how to have positive interactions with those around them, you’ll have a child who’s fast becoming a demanding, disrespectful, spoiled and unhappy person who expects everyone around him to give him what he wants.

When parents allow rude behavior to slide, they'll face some very undesirable consequences as their child becomes older and is a raging rude, ungrateful, and unpleasant person to be around. And on a larger scale, these missed opportunities all add up to enormous numbers of kids who are running around thinking that the world revolves around them—not a pretty picture, and certainly a frightening one that points to generations of kids who will one day grow up to be egomaniacal, narcissistic, and awful adults.

The good news is that this vision of a rude-behavior apocalypse can be avoided with something as simple as consistent reminders of what is good manners and what is rude behavior, and gentle but firm steering in the right direction. Some examples of rude behavior and how to stop it. 

Rude Behavior # 1

"I want..." or "Give me..." (Variations of this include, "I'm thirsty," "I'm hungry," or "I need.")

It’s quite common for kids to start a sentence this way. That’s what they’re thinking—they need something from you. But if your child starts every request this way, it isn’t a request at all—it is a demand, and allowing him to express himself this way all the time is not only giving him permission to be disrespectful, it sends a clear message his wish is his command. Simply getting him into the habit of expressing his needs in a more respectful manner will not only be nicer for the person getting the request to hear, but it will subtly teach your child to use a few extra words to express common courtesy and ask, not demand.

How to stop it: The next time your child says, “I want” or “I’m hungry,” simply ask him to rephrase the question and say “Could I please have” or “May I have something to eat, please?” Tell him that starting questions with “I want” will be something you want removed from his vocabulary.

Rude Behavior # 2

Not saying "Please" or "Thank You"

We often don’t even realize what a big difference these simple words can make when we interact with people in our daily lives. From a bank teller to a cashier at a store to our spouse, saying these words—and having them said to us—can change the dynamic and the entire tone of even the simplest interaction. Taking the time to be polite and show our appreciation can help us all feel better and make things run more smoothly.

How to stop it: When your child forgets to say these words, gently remind him. If she seems annoyed when asked to do so and seems to be only parroting these words--and continues to forget to say them--take her aside and let her know that the next time, you expect her to try to remember on her own.

If she continues to forget, let her know that you love her and want to get her something (a treat, a toy, etc.) but that you expect her to remember these words on her own before she can have them. Never embarrass your child in front of others (a waiter or a friend, for example), but do not give in. Be firm and consistent about what you expect.

Rude Behavior # 3

Not responding when someone greets them

Greeting someone properly is a skill all kids should have. This doesn't mean they should be forced to hug someone when they don't want to or have a long conversation with someone they don't know. But as long as the person is someone mom or dad say is okay to greet, kids should be able to make eye contact, smile, and even shake hands with someone when they say hello.

How to stop it: If your child is shy, give him a bit extra time and space to warm up to someone, but let him know that you expect him to at least answer verbally and look at someone when they speak to them. When your child doesn't respond to someone who says hello, get down to his level and ask him to please respond to the person who just greeted him.

Rude Behavior # 4

Not looking people in the eye (This does not apply, of course, to kids who may have issues with making eye contact, such as those who have autism.)

Speaking of not looking someone in the eye, this is an all-too-common problem in kids--and it's rude. When someone speaks to your child, she should look at them and answer, even if she doesn't know the answer to a question.

How to stop it: Practice, practice, practice. Have your child practice speaking to others in a polite manner by always making eye contact when speaking to you or other family members at home.

Rude Behavior # 5

Interrupt you when you are speaking

Another common rude behavior common in kids is interrupting someone while they're speaking. It's often mom or dad, but kids often also interrupt friends and other family members who might be in the middle of a sentence. Young kids do this not to be rude, but because they want to talk about something they want to talk about right at that moment, and they don't realize that interrupting someone isn't polite.

How to stop it: The next time your child interrupts you or someone else, stop the behavior in its tracks by asking your child to please wait her turn. When there's a slight break in the conversation and someone isn't in the middle of a sentence, then she can ask if she can interrupt. Explain that unless it's an emergency, she must ask if she can interrupt, and then say what she wants to say if she wants to be heard.

Rude Behavior # 6

Being disrespectful to others
When you allow your child to treat peers or adults with disrespect or disdain, you are allowing behavior problems like bullying, meanness, and lack of empathy to flourish in your child.

How to stop it: When your child makes fun of someone; puts down someone else's opinion or the way they dress or something else about them; or makes someone else feel bad deliberately in any way, speak to them immediately about how this might make the target of their criticism feel. Would they feel upset? Ask your child how he would like it if the tables were turned and someone said these things to him or about him?

Rude Behavior # 7

Being a bad sport when they lose--or when they win

Knowing how to be a gracious loser and winner is an important skill for kids. Good sportsmanship will teach your child important skills like patience (She'll keep getting better eventually, even if she doesn't win right now), perseverance (She might win next time), and empathy (She might stop and realize that doing a little song and dance when she wins a game might not make her playmate feel so good).

How to stop it: The next time your child gets angry or upset when she loses or gloats too much when she wins, take her aside and explain to her the importance of thinking about how the other people playing the game might feel. Encourage her to say, "Nice one," or "Good job," to the winner. If she won, remind her to say something like, "Good game--it was fun, and I'm sure you'll beat me next time."

Some Tips to Keep in Mind About Kids' Rude Behavior

  • Perhaps one of the most important reasons to stay on top of rude behavior in your child is that it's ultimately in his best interest to be a well-mannered and nice person. Kids who do not behave nicely or are unkind to others are more likely to have trouble making friends or having good relationships with nice people. 
  • Think to yourself, is this a person I want to be close to for the next 18 years of her life? If the answer is no, then take a hard look at what needs to change, and take the necessary steps to help your child be a nicer person.
  • Don’t expect your child to be a young gentleman or lady overnight. It will take time for your child to build good manners skills.
  • Be realistic about what they can do at what age. Your 5-year-old may need extra reminders, especially if good manners weren't something you worked on when she was younger. 
  • You’ll need fewer reminders at they get older. Once you establish a solid foundation, you won’t need to constantly remind your child about good manners--they'll happen naturally.

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