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Kids, Rudeness, and Teaching Moments

By Mark Brandenburg MA, CPCC

“Here’s your water bottle, James!”

The eight-year-old snatched the bottle hard out of his mother’s hand, and said, “Give me that!” A chorus of nervous laughter followed from the parents nearby, including the boy’s mother. James sauntered off, without acknowledging his mother’s offering, or the presence of the other parents in the group.

We were attending a youth basketball game, and the hallway outside the gym was filled with parents and revved up kids. This kind of interaction between children and their parents is not unusual today. We all see examples of kids acting more aggressively around their parents. And unfortunately, we all see examples of their parents doing little to change it.

In a society with kids who are “plugged in” to TV, computers, and video games for record numbers of hours each day, it’s easy to blame our kids’ behavior on the media garbage that enters their lives. And as stressed out as parents are today, it’s also easy to turn the other way when our kids act in rude and disrespectful ways.

But if you do turn the other way from a “teaching moment” like the one James’ mother had, you’ll create a whole lot more trouble for yourself down the road.

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We are our child’s main teacher in life. We are surrounded by sarcasm, rudeness, and aggressive behavior. And we have the choice about whether our children become part of this kind of culture, or they adhere to a kinder, gentler, more respectful one. All we need to do is to commit to what we believe in as mentors for our children, and to follow through with “right action.”

In the case of James’ mother, she could track down James, and as soon as they were alone, she could tell him that it’s appropriate to say “thank you” when she gives him something. She could tell him it’s also appropriate to greet other adults that are in her group, and to make eye contact with them.

This can all be done in a calm and kind manner. It can be done many times each day, depending on the behavior of your child. And while it may be difficult and aggravating at times to follow up consistently, the results will never fail to show up in your child.

We must remember that the development of a child is always connected to the development of a parent. When we show discipline and patience with our children, they’ll show it to us. When we let go of our responsibilities, our laziness shows itself in our children just as clearly.

Parents live in challenging times, but world peace still begins at home.

Your teaching moments are waiting, along with your children.

© Mark Brandenburg MA, CPCC
Mark Brandenburg MA, CPCC, is the author of "25 Secrets of Emotionally Intelligent Fathers". For more great tips and action steps for fathers, sign up for his FREE bi-weekly newsletter, Dads, Don't Fix Your Kids, at


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