This opinion has been submitted anonymously, because the author doesn’t quite know how to tell her friends that she thinks their children are rude – or that they’re bad parents for not teaching their children good manners…

I walk up to my friend – we’ve known each other for 12 years now. I kiss his cheek, I hug him, I kneel down and say hello to his five-year old son – who keeps his thumb firmly in his mouth, stares at me, and then turns his head away, just like he does every time I see him. “Oh,” says his father. “ He’s not in a good mood today,” condoning his child’s rudeness.

Not unlike another couple we know – whose daughter, aged nearly five, is yet to make eye contact with me or greet me directly, even though we see the family at least once a month. “She’s shy today because she was in trouble this morning,” says mom, when I make yet another failed attempt to engage with her daughter, as if the child’s rudeness is an exceptional circumstance and not a regular one.

Is it too demanding of me to expect people to teach their children basic manners and etiquette?

Please don’t misunderstand me here – I completely get that three, four, and five-year old children don’t automatically know that it’s important to greet someone when you see them, and bid them farewell when you leave. I don’t blame the children, at all. I blame the parents, whose job it is to teach their offspring about the basic tenets of being part of society.

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Yes, I know that your child is the centre of your universe and can do no wrong in your eyes – and that you maybe have more sympathy when your child has had a bad day than I do. But has your child really had a bad day, every time I’ve seen you – so bad that you think it inappropriate to teach them simple manners when I try to greet them?

And what does it say of your opinion of me (and of any other adult that your child engages with) that you don’t think your child should respond to my greeting? After all, who is in charge in any situation – the child who has yet to learn manners, or the parent who has yet to take the trouble to teach them?

Beyond that, what does it teach your child – in these years when he or she is most receptive to learning – when you condone their rudeness if they’re ‘having a bad day’? How is that going to equip them to engage with the world at large when they’re older – or are you suddenly going to wake up one day and wonder just where that rude, disrespectful teenager living down the passage came from? How are you THEN going to teach them that it’s all of a sudden the time to have some respect, when you’ve been allowing them to be rude, dismissive and disrespectful to all and sundry for their whole lives to date?

I have no doubt that I will not be immune from teenage angst when my children, now aged between 3 and 8, reach That Age, but I can tell you this: I have taught them, from the time they started talking, to greet other people – at the very least with a hello, ideally with a hug, or for my son, a handshake.

When we leave company, they say goodbye, and ‘thank you’ if we have enjoyed someone’s hospitality. My children are welcomed wherever we go – socially and in other contexts too. They are confident when they meet new people, and strike up conversations with cashiers, petrol attendants and other queuing shoppers wherever we go, making these otherwise mundane experiences all the more pleasant with the exchange of smiles and chats.

I have no doubt that this friendly confidence and these simple good manners are going to help them go far one day. I wish I could say the same for the other children I’ve spoken of here…

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10 Responses to “Rude children – parents, take the blame”

  • Olga Da Polga says:

    My littlie (who's almost two) often turns her face away when introduced to new people and even sometimes when she sees people she knows. I've always been guilty of saying, 'Oh, sorry, she's just woken up…' or whatever, but you're so right. Basic manners should start now, and no depend on the sort of mood the child is in, but be non-negotiable. Thanks for this.

  • Margot Bertelsmann Doherty says:

    I try often to get my children to say hello, thank you and goodbye but it's been a long haul and there have been many times my shy one hasn't done it. That doens't mean I'm not trying, or that I'm not embarrassed about perceived rudeness. But if no word comes out of his mouth, then that's an impasse. I'd rather reason with him why it's important to be polite than have a standoff right then and there which is likely to result in worse, not better, behaviour. Agree?

  • Proud of the author, hope that the parents written about take the hint and do something about it. If a child has not been taught to be polite and greet when necessary. Then I think it is way to late if they have reached the age of 5 plus. This is the time when kids learn everything. Xoxo

  • Hear hear to the author of this article. Could not have said this better myself. It is lazy parenting and unfortunately the children will be the ones who suffer in the end. I am a pre school teacher and see parents ruled by their children on a daily basis. It's horrible, to last the least.

  • Marion Scher says:

    I didn't, but definitely could have written this article. A friend of mine who runs a very well known Northern Suburbs nursery school says this is getting worse each year. It's definitely a case of not disciplining. Sadly, as a freelance journalist who writes on horrific stories (drugs/sex etc) I often see the result of no discipline…

  • My daughter is 6 and I struggle to get her to even talk to her grandparents for years and years her visits or any address from anyone other than me left her cowering behind my legs, I am very polite and I ask her all the time to just wave if she is shy I try daily to explain to her people perceive her to have bad manners. At what stage may I stop making a “scene” about her not talking to others? I was taught you don’t make a big deal of something otherwise it’s an issue. Children that are outspoken and have greeted you before have no excuse, in this article the writer refers to a child that never greets – just you? Or anyone? When is it okay if a child doesn’t have the basics under the knee (the hello’s the thank you etc.) how do you instil these “manners” aside from personal example and constant repetition? I’ve done it for 6 yrs. and failed miserably? Any advice?

  • Louise Otto says:

    My daughter wouldn't greet anybody the other day (2 1/2), so someone made the comment "shame don't worry she is shy" – so I just said "No, she isn't, she is just being rude". I'm her Mom and I love her dearly, but I also know when my child is being rude and it is important for other that parents to see that instead of making excuses. I agree with the author, "manners maketh the man".

  • Fred Sanders says:

    FINALLY… someone has the nuts to say this out loud. More power to you dear author. and I hope your kids do you the credit you deserve when they, in turn , learn what politeness and courtesy are all about. If the kids you described aren't taught some respect for the rules, I'd hate to be on the roads at the same time as them when they eventually drive a car!
    Thank heavens mine are all grown and , if I may say so, are generally a source of pride to us.

  • Tracey Grobbelaar says:

    I have a very shy 5 year old daughter and a very outspoken 10 year old son. But basic hello and goodbye or please and thank you is a forced rule. My friends often joke that my kids could say please and thank you, before they could say mommy and daddy. It is basics and no excuses. You will always greet people and you will always say please and thank you, even when you don't feel like it. Or are in a bad mood, or feel sick. I don't care. I know adults that did not learn this as kids, and when they don't feel well, they cannot say good morning to you, because they feel ill or are in a bad mood with someone else. It is no excuse. Rude kids, become rude adults. You do not have to have a conversation with them… just say hello, goodbye, thank you or please. Basics!

  • Agree 100%! My 5yo daughter knows she has to greet people (and she often does it shyly, but it's a non-negotiable). And I have drilled "say thank you" into her for years – it is now becoming a habit. If I get a gift for her from someone when she is not there, she knows that I will phone that person when I get home and she will thank them herself, even if she doesn't know the person.

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