When I taught elementary school I didn’t tolerate rude behaviour from my students. My role as an educator afforded me the right to address disrespectful conduct and hopefully turn it around.
As a parent I don’t accept rude behaviour from my own children. In my role as queen of my house, I shut down snarky comments and eye-rolls, right quick.
But as a person in the world, trying to teach my kids, but also protect them, sometimes I have to tolerate other people’s rude kids.
I want to shake these parents and say, “What are you doing?? Why are you allowing this? Teach your kids to be nice!” The shaking part is probably assault. So I keep my hands to myself and my mouth shut.
But it’s really, really, really, really, really hard.
The other day I drove my son and his friend into Toronto and dropped them off at a theatre to see some You Tuber celeb guy. I don’t know. I don’t understand it. But they, along with the thousands of other fans were excited, so I don’t question it.
My daughter and I had to wait a few hours for them, so we found a shady park in The Beaches (sorry, I’m old school and I can’t call it “The Beach”). It was a stupidly hot day so there weren’t any other kids in the park.
When I saw two young kids who looked to be around seven or eight approach (no parents to be seen) I thought, great, playmates.
The two kids, a girl and a boy, were playing some kind of Harry Potter game—acting out scenes from one of the books. I thought, how refreshing to see children pretending.
Avery asked for permission to go over to them. She shouted, “Hey mom, there’s kids! Can I go say hi to my new friends?”
Her new friends… my heart.
My daughter is very friendly. Probably the friendliest eleven-year-old you’ll ever come across. She loves people. All people. Her biggest thrill in life is making a new friend.
The kids heard this and turned around. And stared. They didn’t see me watching them from a shaded bench.
Avery shouted, “Hi friends!!!”
They continued to stare.
Then they whispered to each other. I couldn’t hear what they said.
They started laughing at my daughter, and then ran away, the boy turning back to shoot dirty looks. Looks of disgust.
And my daughter just stood there, at the top of the slide, confused.
I wanted to go school those kids. But that would only draw attention to their mean behaviour.
Instead I made excuses for them. I said, “Oh, it looks like they’re very busy with their game. Let’s go on the swings.”
Sometimes redirection is the best course of action.
But man, if I’d had some back up—somebody to distract Avery so I could’ve spoken to those kids—I would have.
Why are some children inclusive and kind, while others are just plain nasty?
Is it personality, or parenting, or both?
Those kids were assholes. Whatever. Avery wasn’t upset so we moved on.
What I can’t understand is when kids act like this (and sadly, it happens a lot. Shout out to all the fellow “special parents” who know what I’m ‘talkin’ bout) and their parents are there and they do nothing about it. Or if they do, it’s a wishy-washy response.
What the hell people?
If your kid is mean, shut that sh*t down. Jesus, it’s not that hard. BE THE ADULT.
Just an interesting (to me anyway) tidbit we’ve observed… I’ve found that children up to the age of seven are quite delightful. They are generally kind, non-judgemental and incredibly inclusive. When we go to the park and there are young children there, I’m a happy, relaxed mama. Avery plays so well with little kids. She takes on a gentle leadership role and play time is actually playful.
But it seems as though when kids turn seven, it all goes to hell.
There’s a window, in our experience anyway, where kids become intolerant and often quite cruel. Apart from classmates who know and love Avery, or friends we have a preexisting relationship with, I keep a close eye on typical kids at the park who are between the ages of seven and eleven.
I not saying that all kids in this age bubble are rude and intolerant. There are tweens who engage with my daughter. Who smile at her, say hello, include her.
But this is more often the exception.
I’m asking in earnest as a teacher, as a parent, as a person.
It’s developmental, surely. Kids are trying to work out their place in the pecking order. Power struggles and all of that. We’re animals. It’s nature. I get it.
But when your child is a lion cub and my child is a lamb, it would be nice if you taught your cub how to retract their claws and play gently, you know?
That analogy is stupid, but you get where I’m going with it.
You can’t control how your kids treat others when they’re away from you. But when you’re with them, watch how they interact with other kids. Are they inclusive, fair, nice? If not, why not? Step in and help them.
Show them how to be a good human. Teach them what is acceptable behaviour and what is not. Then maybe when you’re not around, when a friendly little girl says hello to them, they’ll say hello back.