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Let’s face it, we often smile, chuckle and soften on the inside at a child’s quirky humor or unbiased truth-even if it makes us cringe in embarrassment.Child's Humor

However, alongside these pleasant times are some insidious moments that should force us to ask the question, “Why are children so rude?”

The supermarket tantrums, bullying on and off the playground, words like “I hate you” shouted to an adult or the profanity dished out to a teacher in the classroom or to the bus driver among a myriad of other outbursts are a grim reality of a growing trend of disrespectful behavior from children.

Something has gone terribly wrong! How on earth did we get to this point and what are we going to do about it? A peaceful solution is needed here quite urgently if we are to save our children from going further down this slippery slope of rudeness anymore don’t you think?

Parent and principal

As a veteran early childhood teacher, I had my fair share of talking back, violent and defiant behavior, plus some ‘choice’ words I won’t mention here. I became so discouraged that I was ready to quit than continue to feel so helpless day after day. But before I threw in the towel, I made one last ditch attempt to turn things around for the better in my classroom.

First, I spent some time studying what made these children ‘tick’ who were prone to be rude in the classroom, on the playground, in the cafeteria, in the hallway and especially with their parents at drop off or pick up time. I discovered a few things.

  1. These students acted mostly on impulse to solve their conflicts.
  2. Mimic destructive behaviors of cartoon characters in play.
  3. Use adult language picked up at home that they didn’t know or understand what they meant.
  4. These students had little to no knowledge of positive ways to solve their conflicts.
  5. Students were more likely to act out and be rude to their peers if they felt left out, humiliated, afraid etc.
  6. When these children were around their parents, they were twice as likely to act out and be rude which was surprising to me.
  7. These same children were willing to use a different, more positive way to solve their problems if it was presented to them.

I further realized that I was assuming that my precious kindergartners already had the basics in social skills taught to them. It became crystal clear that a strong foundation in what is right and wrong, appropriate and inappropriate was lacking.

Right or wrong decision concept sign of a direction sign in a field pointing out the right way and the wrong way

That’s when I swung into gear and began incorporating a daily ‘character time’ to start the day. I introduced a character concept, kept it short and sweet and made it a whole lot of fun. Then continuously reinforced the concept throughout the day to help the children internalize what was learned. Key concepts were pulled from the “Peaceful Solution Character Education Program” Kindergarten Series.


Every morning, we would review a concept such as “Respect.” They learned what respect is, why it’s important, who needs to show respect, what occurs when it’s not shown….and most importantly we role played different ways of showing respect and how to respond when respect is not shown.

This was the turning point in my teaching career! Within a few weeks, student’s behavior took a positive turn. Pushing and shoving in line for the coveted first place was mostly gone. Students began asking first before touching their classmate’s belongings. Returning found items became the norm. Waiting to speak in whole group was improving dramatically, so much so that I was finally able to spend the time I needed for quality group and one on one instruction. There was a dramatic decrease in rude behaviors. I was excited to say the least!

It was an eye-opening experience for me. I learned that setting the positive tone early in the school day and staying focused on helping students practice and develop the positive character traits taught made all the difference in the world.

So in answering the question, why are children so rude? Well, we’ve know the answer all along. It’s because we allow it. Maybe out of ignorance, laziness or lack of will. Whatever it is, it does not need to continue. We might not be able to change the type of shows children watch, or the various influences and experiences they have at home or in their community, but we can provide that positive role model, instruction and experience so they can have a real choice between right and wrong, what’s appropriate and what’s inappropriate.

If character education is elevated to it’s rightful place, with math, reading, science and social studies like it should be, then each home, playground, bus and school would experience the same kindness, respect, self-control and acceptance we experienced over 19 years ago in our kindergarten classroom. A few minutes of character education instruction daily worked then and it still works today.

After all, isn’t it awesome to have a smart student who is also respectful and a pleasure to be around?