Kids have to be polite to adults. How come adults don’t have to be polite to kids?

Who says adults don’t have to be polite to kids?

Granted, adults often aren’t impolite to kids, but that doesn’t necessarily make it right. That just makes for a rude adult.

Kids learn courtesy from courteous adults, IMHO. I’ve apologized to children upon occasion when I’ve been discourteous.

Please explain what you mean by “polite”. I can’t really get into this unless I know what you mean by that.

pk: I mean thoughtful and considerate, basically. I know that there are adults who practice what they preach, and it can work both ways. But it seems like the system is set up so that it’s only obligated to work one way.

—Children are told that it’s rude to interrupt. But an adult can interrupt a child, and if s/he says, “Don’t you interrupt me,” there will be consequences. If a child interrupts an adult, there will also be consequences.

—Children are told that it’s rude to say “shut up”. But an adult can tell a child to shut up, and if s/he doesn’t do so, there will be consequences. If a child tells an adult to shut up, there will also be consequences.

—Children are told that it’s rude to make disparaging remarks. But an adult can say, “Ooo! Looks like somebody’s putting on a little weight there!” and if the child says, “Who are you talking to, yourself?” there will be consequences. If a child makes the same remark in reference to an adult, there will also be consequences.

And so on. I’m just wondering why there’s no machinery for a child to protest when they’re treated rudely, while a child’s rude behavior can be immediately quashed.

[ This comment correct at the time of writing ]

Isn’t it just fine that we have, at the top of the forum, a request to please use descriptive thread titles, and then, right under it, a thread title consisting of the single word ‘Courtesy’.

Proving once again that there is no message so clear, so simple that everyone can understand it.

ianzin, forgive me. I don’t come into GD much. I hit “new thread” without looking at anything at all. Terribly sorry.

In our house, I do get upset if my children interrupt me for silly reasons, but if they have come to tell me someone is hurt or needs help, they understand that it’s OK. I try not to interrupt my kids, unless it’s important too. My husband, however is constantly interruping them. It seems like he does it more unintentionally then just to be rude. Once it’s pointed out to him, he’ll apologize.

Shut up is just not nice. In our house we try not to use it. Sometimes my son does, when it happens, he is told why it’s not acceptable.

In the past people have made comments like that to my children, and I was appalled. I will speak to the person making the remark, be cause to me, if a person has the nerve to say something that rude to my child, it means they don’t believe my child deserves the same respect an adult does.

Well, it all depends on the parents themselves. It seems that people who do those things don’t really seem to understand that children are people too, who have feelings that can be hurt.

When my daughter goes into a long description of her favorite cartoon, honestly, I could care less, but If I want her to be polite, I need to be courteous enough to listen to the things that she thinks are important.

This is not true.

All the situations you describe are rude, and the adult is being rude (although I can imagine circumstances when it would be necessary to interrupt a child).

Just as children, although they should not be rude, sometimes are, so adults also fail in their courtesy.

I think it’s sad that some adults think it isn’t important to demonstrate politeness when dealing with children. I am a teacher, and I am occasionally horrified to see teachers make this assumption. Although I do dole out punishments and F’s, I try always to treat my students with courtesy.

You’re right that there is no way to enforce good manners on adults, as anyone who has ever visited Wal-Mart can attest. Parents can enforce good manners on their children in an attempt to train them. But a good example is the best teaching method, and parents who insist on polite children but are rude themselves are not likely to raise polite adults.

Quick answer? Because I’m the grown-up. Children have not learned, yet, the mechanisms of adult behavior. As such, they don’t necessarily know that the conversation/argument they’re interrupting is far more important that telling the latest plot point of Babysitters’ Club #1,398,657: The Little Shit Who Wouldn’t Shut Up.

And vice-versa, as my daughter’s repeating the same damned sentence for the 500th time as her excuse/rebuttal, it’s time for her to learn that repetition is not a valid argument style.

Children will (and IIRC, you’re a mom, Rilch, so you know this) push every boundary they can find. However, I also think age brings broadened and shrunk boundaries i.e. a 16 year old deserves more respect and freedom than a 6 year old, but a 6 year old deserves more leeway when interrupting a conversation. It’s a matter of knowing better, and as the grown-up, as the parent, I automatically know better.


True enough. But as people have said, it’s possible to teach by example.


Ah. You know, even though I contravened the forum rules, I’m still glad I phrased my OP and title as loosely as I did. I wanted to sound people out on how they felt about adult-child relations overall before I narrowed it down to what I’m asking about.

I’m not a mom, BTW.

Now, what you’re talking about is discipline. The same rules don’t apply. Although I fervently hope that you don’t call your daughter a “little shit” to her face, nor tell her to shut up if she’s not out of control, nor getting there. If she’s still being reasonable, the parent/adult should be reasonable too. (I’m sorry, but I don’t think parents are always right. Adults are usually right, but parents are often loath to admit that in some situations, it was their demeanor that started escalating the situation.)

But I’m talking about communication, and, as I said above, consideration.

Say an adult relative, while visiting, goes into the room of a 12 year old girl and has a smoke. The relative wants to be alone for a while, and she doesn’t want to smoke around her 2 year old son. Understandable. But does she have the right to not only stink up the girl’s bedroom with her smoke, but use the air-freshener dish as an ashtray? And furthermore, what would happen if that girl was staying at the smoking relative’s house and went into that woman’s bedroom?

Or perhaps there’s a ten-year-old boy whose grandparents are visiting. He’s sent to his room to watch TV, and an hour or so later, comes bounding into the living room to say “Rick Sutcliffe just signed with the Cubs!” Grandma turns on him and snarls, “I couldn’t care less,” and returns to the argument she’d been having with the boy’s mother. Now how the hell did he know they were so occupied? Even if they don’t give a damn about what he was telling them, grandma still could have checked her anger and said, “Not now, honey.” But if he was talking, heatedly or otherwise, with someone else, and grandma burst in with a non-sequitur, she’d expect to be acknowledged with courtesy.

Then there’s the seven-year-old boy who was watching people play tennis while his parents waited for an open court. He busied himself retrieving wild balls and tossing them back. Everyone thought that was adorable, until the groundskeeper or whatever stormed over and ordered him back to his parents “or else”. Now, I suppose it’s a gray area whether he should have been there or not. But he was not actively causing trouble, and there was no need to berate him. Or doesn’t he count as a customer because his parents are the ones paying for court time and he’s not going to play?

Or perhaps a five-year-old girl has accompanied her mother to a service-club meeting. Several other members have brought their infants, who are squirming around in a playpen. (The infants, I mean, not the members.) With nothing else to occupy her, the girl chins herself on the playpen and watches the little ones. Again, not the safest thing to do. But is it right for someone (NOT the girl’s mother) to come up behind her and, without a word, pick her up by the armpits and pull her back several inches, then walk away without even letting the girl see her face? She’s not a dog or a cat, she’s a person. And there she was, congratulating herself because she was staying out of mommy’s hair and being quiet, and not sneaking cookies out of the kitchen, like that little boy they won’t allow to come back.

That’s what I’m talking about.

IANAP (nor am I likely to be one) but I have always made every effort to be polite to children. If a child is blocking my path I say “excuse me” and I have apologized to children when the occasion required it. Of course, when my attempts at politeness are met with rudeness, I feel no particular obligation to concern myself with offending their obviously non-existent sensibilities. I do, of course stop short of anything which could result in legal action on te part of their parents.

Did this one really happen? Because if it did, the relative’s discourtesy is not restricted to children, unless the 12 year-olds parents said it was fine to smoke in her room. (unlikely)

Sure, grandma would expect that, but if the issue is treating kids less courteously than adults, then the question is not how grandma would want to be treated, but how grandma would have reacted if the boy’s father or another adult had burst in with the news.

In all honesty, except for interuptions and telling a child in one way or another to “shut up”(both generally done by parents or close relatives, and sometimes quite understandable), I don’t see a lot of people being more discourteous to children than they are to adults. Perhaps some are ruder because they think they can get away with it, but I’m sure those people are just as rude to adults when they think they can get away with it.

All these incidents happened. In this case, I don’t know if the parents said it was okay. I don’t know if they even knew, until the girl yelled at the relative for ruining her air freshener. But that was regarded as overreacting.

But it may indeed be a general discourtesy. This woman also used a Good Towel[sup]TM[/sup] to wipe up her son’s vomit. But the girl was angry about that too (it was her Good Towel), while her mother shrugged it off.


So would that reaction be appropriate if it had been another adult?

What I’m really getting at here is the fact that kids can so easily be made outsiders in their own family, if they’re outnumbered by adults. Everything is grown-up time, and any attempt by the child to socialize is seen as an intrusion. I know kids can’t be included in everything, like parties with liquor, for instance. But family should mean everybody, not just the majority.

Should-kids-attend-weddings is such a frequent topic around these boards, it ought to be a GD! I’ve said, though no one’s ever responded, that one of the deciding factors should be whether or not the kids themselves would enjoy the reception. (Not the ceremony; I’m not convinced that even adults “enjoy” wedding ceremonies.) I despise the mindset that claims that in order for underage reception guests to be well-behaved, someone has to sit them sternly in a chair and order them not to move. It can be fun for them, in ways that are not disruptive, if someone could take the time to give them some farging attention.

I know what I went through when I was a kid, always being dragged to one reception, birthday party, or anniversary party after another. There’s nothing quite like being in a parking lot, in tears because no one would talk to you, and having your mother storm up to you and bark, “No one wants you here…no one’s going to put themselves out for you!” I make an effort to reach out to The One Kid at such gatherings. Or if there’s more than one kid, I’m still nice to them. (This benefits me, also, since I can no longer drink. Medication, y’know. And sober, I can’t tolerate drunk people as well as I once did.)


Probably. But the children still have no getback. Another example: Family dinner. Aunt takes it upon herself to criticize my eating habits, despite the fact that I’d just declared my love for the succotash, and wraps up by saying, “Her insides must be terrible.” There was nothing I could say or do. Nothing.

Rilch, you’ve been around long enough to have seen Gus’s response:

The world is not fair; it’s round, mostly.

I think that your objections to most of the events you have noted are correct. I do not believe that adults, even parents, have a right to be discourteous to children. Unfortunately, many will–and they will reap what they sow as rudeness begets rudeness and their grandchildren are rude back to them.

I cannot think of any effective means to enforce a policy of mutual respect. The best we can do is demonstate courtesy,ourselves, and hope that our example inspires people around us to do the same.

(I suppose that within a family one might suggest to various adults that their behavior is inappropriate. Of course, you’re liable to be met with some adult-on-adult rudeness if you do. And if one feels the need to call attention to an act of rudeness, it would probably by better if one expressed that call in the most polite manner possible.)

True enough.



FTR, the boy who made the announcement was my nephew, and grandma who bit his head off was my mom. That wasn’t the only time she dissed him when he was that age. Then, when he was a teenager, she couldn’t understand why he had “such an attitude towards me…and he’s always sooooo nice to you, Rilch…what’s he trying to get out of you?” :rolleyes:


Well said.

Again, I must explain why I worked around to my point so gradually. This has been eating at me for some time, as I read numerous “that kid was so rude” posts. I knew if I started a Pit thread saying, “I was so kicked around when I was a kid, and my mom was awful to my nephew, and Mr. Rilch’s parents dragged him to places where there was nothing for a kid to do,” I would have been met with Gus’ sig line right off the bat. I gave examples, and I seem to have been taken seriously, so I feel better.

All I’m saying is, I wish people didn’t take it so flippin’ personally if a child exhibits less than a Buckingham Palace level of gentility. If they seem uncooperative, it’s possible that they’ve been treated shabbily by adults before, and now have their guard up. Some people just think they can say anything at all to a kid, and it won’t add up or come back to them.


Yeah…My mom witnessed a lot of mean things, though, and said nothing because she didn’t want to “cause problems”. She was there when Aunt #1 made that remark about my “insides”, for instance. Actually, the remark was met by a very loud silence…so I guess that was censure. Thank you for the self-esteem.

There was another incident where…oh god…I tried to open a can of Coca-Cola. The tab came off in my hand, leaving the can still closed. I brought it into the kitchen, asking for help. Now, I wasn’t whining or otherwise overreacting, but Aunt #2 blew an absolute gasket. She leapt up from the table, grabbed my wrist and dragged me over to the counter. Pulling a can opener from the drawer, she growled, “Now, I know this isn’t real fancy stuff, like they have in New Jersey…” Her voice was just dripping with scorn (I lived in north Jersey at the time). Again, my mom heard all of this, and did and said nothing. Now, granted, there were a lot of problems with this woman. The rest of the family ended up shunning her for a long time because she and her weasel of a husband mismanaged my grandma’s finances. But as a result of turning a blind eye, my mom failed to realize that this one-on-one nastiness was indicative of a bigger problem.

Sigh. I just wanted to make my point. I know every child thinks they’re treated badly, but it’s not always a simple matter of clean-up-your-room-do-your-homework.

IMHO, it’s a matter of power. A certain percentage of people, when given power, will abuse that power.

So it’s not just adult v. child.

For example, as an attorney, I regularly appear before judges. A certain percentage of judges frequently interrupt, act rudely, etc. But God forbid I should call them on it.

Also, in the workplace, many many bosses are rude to their subordinates. And interrupting is the least of it. Sarcasm, screaming, you name it, it happens.

People who are unpleasant and rude to children are generally unpleasant and rude, period, in my experience. I think watching how an adult interacts with a child is a good way to gauge the adult’s character. Although I don’t consider children inferiors, I think that the old saw that you can judge someone not by how they treat their equals, but but how they treat their subordinates applies here.