How to Deal with a Rude Child

Kids aren't born with perfect manners and etiquette. Someone has to teach them.

Cheryl Butler
5-minute read
Episode #346

No matter how well-behaved we think our kids are, there will come a time when all those wonderful manners we’ve tried to instill since their toddler days will completely disappear and a rude gremlin will appear instead. Oh, and you can usually count on this happening when you’re in public.

It could be a snarky reply when you ask your daughter to please move her backpack off the kitchen island and into her bedroom: “I can’t do everything, you know. I just got home from practice and now you expect me to be your slave just because you want the island cleared off?” Ouch!  Or it could be one of those precious moments when your family is sitting quietly in church and suddenly your 8-year-old son decides it’s the perfect time to question what he’s smelling. “Oh my God—do you guys smell that? Smells like mothballs. Oh how gross! I think it’s coming from behind us!” Whatever the scenario might be, rude remarks are a part of growing up (and unfortunately, too often a part of our adult world!), so how we handle these situations can really lay the foundation for how our kids will behave as they grow into teens and young adults.

The manners and principles of good etiquette are learned behaviors. That's why Mighty Mommy has some tips to nip that rude behavior in the bud and turn it around.

Tip # 1:  Correct the Rudeness Immediately

Correct your child in the moment. When a rude comment or behavior has just taken place, stop what you’re doing and address it immediately, not when it’s convenient. If you’re cooking dinner and your child lashes out about something he’s not pleased with, calmly turn the stove off, walk over to him, and very matter-of-factly say, “In our family, we don’t speak to each other that way,” or “It’s not OK to talk to me like that.” Make eye contact with him for several seconds and then resume making dinner.

Avoid responding in ways that excuse the behavior like, “Honey, I know you don’t really mean that!’ or “Sweetie, you’re just upset.” Such responses diminish the accountability of the child and justify the rude behavior. Instead, challenge his rude comments by saying something like: "If you don’t agree with our rules about curfew, let me know, but please don’t speak to me in that hateful tone.”  See Also:  5 Ways to Speak Positively to Children

Tip #2: React with the "C's"Calm, Consistent, Consquences.

When you’re faced with a situation that is trying and unpleasant, it can help to focus in on how to respond. Years ago I remember reading about reacting with the “C's." In the case of rude behavior, the “C's" I refer to are “Calm,”  “Consistent,” and “Consequences.”

Calm: When one of my kids is pushing my buttons or doing something that I find completely unacceptable, such as behaving rudely (whether it's private or public) I count to 10 (sometimes a lot more!) and talk to myself in the process. “Stay calm and in control,” I tell myself. By taking a few seconds to step away from my child’s poor behavior and get my own feelings in check, I can usually shift from being frustrated and ready to lash out to a reasonable state where I can handle my child’s situation without losing my composure.  When you work to manage your own behavior first, you effectively neutralize the power struggle or the bad behavior. As an added bonus, when you get yourself under control, your kids will also usually follow your lead. Remember, calm is contagious.  See Also:  6 Ways to Become a Calmer Parent


All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own mental health provider. Please consult a licensed mental health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Cheryl Butler Project Parenthood

Cheryl L. Butler was the host of the Mighty Mommy podcast for nine years from 2012 to 2021. She is the mother of eight children. Her experiences with infertility, adoption, seven pregnancies, and raising children with developmental delays have helped her become a resource on the joys and challenges of parenting. You can reach her by email.