Rudeness … A Major Source of Childhood Danger

“Don’t make me have to speak to you once we’ve left this house!” Those were the words my father always said to me and my brother whenever we went out as a family. My mother would stand by and punctuate my father’s declaration with ‘the look’.

It was not that my parents didn’t want to speak to us in public. Afterall, we are a family of talkers. It is rare that one of us has an opinion we don’t feel compelled to share. The message my father was trying to get across to his children was the difference between ‘required’ and ‘voluntary’ communication. There is a difference.

Voluntary communication for my parents would essentially be pleasant exchanges with their children when visiting family. Rudeness would fall into the category of required communication. You know what I mean.

Mom: “Tell your Auntie her gravy is delicious.”
Me: “I can’t! It’s cold and nasty.”
Mom: “Tell her anyway.”
Dad: (hissed between clenched teeth covered by his moustache) “Don’t make me have to come over there and talk to you!”
Me: “Auntie, that is really nice gravy!”

Now the described scenario falls somewhere between the two noted forms of communication. Had I been foolish enough to stand my ground, my behaviour would have been judged as rude and I condemned to swift discipline. Luckily I remembered the usual warning received before we left our house. Had I forgotten this my father would have been ‘required’ to talk to me. In fact, it would have been the sort of discussion where my input would not have been best kept to myself.

I must admitt that as I child I hated all of this. As a teenager it made me laugh. Now as an adult I appreciate the value in it all.

I now understand my parents weren’t trying to hurt me (well, not for the most part). They were trying to cultivate in me a sense of appropriate behaviour . For instance, sometimes you compliment a host on their meal, not because you like it, but as a sign of appreciation for the effort they made on your behalf. More importantly, my parents wanted me to grow up to be a decent and respectful person. They wanted me to understand that when you leave your home and enter that of another, to make sure the only memory you leave behind is a pleasant one of your visit. And nothing else.

Recently I have noticed many parents are not sharing these lessons with their children. As a result their childrern are often difficult to be around. I’ve noticed that these parents will let their little darlings act out with excuses, offense after offense, until suddenly they snap. Then it isn’t pretty. It all ends with cursing and tears by both parents and child.

Each time I’ve witnessed one of these melt-downs, I always think, if only they had used my father’s technique they could have taught their children early on that rudeness is a major source of childhood danger.

– Mantha Baby


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