What This Is Like from Your Perspective

You work hard to teach your kids manners. You want them to treat others with respect at all times. So when they don’t, it’s mortifying.

When they pull away quickly when their great-aunt tries to kids them…

When they complain about a gift that someone got them…

When they act rude to the child of a family friend…

You want to crawl in a whole and punish them severely at the same time. But you worry that that’s not going to change their behavior the next time.


What This Is Like from Their Perspective

It’s not that always kids don’t have manners or don’t know what you expect from them. But sometimes their emotions make them behavior differently than they “should.”

When they really don’t want someone to kiss them, their instinct to pull away may kick in…

When they really are disappointed about a gift, their automatic response is to be honest, not polite…

When a family friend’s child is doing something they don’t like, they let them know it…

Kids don’t always have the filters we’d like them to have, especially because they don’t have the same need to be “nice” all the time that we do.



How It Usually Goes When

Kids Are Not Polite 


Scenario: Troy’s grandparents are visiting and have a gift for Troy. As his grandmother hands it to him, Troy snatches the box from her and runs to open it without saying thank you.

Mom: Troy! That was so rude!

Troy ignores her and continues to open the present.

Mom: TROY!

Troy (looks up): What?!

Mom: You just ripped that out of your grandmother’s hands. And you didn’t say thank you.

Troy looks back down and continues to open the present.

Mom: Troy! Say thank you!

Troy (mumbles): Thank you.

Mom: Troy. Stop opening that present NOW and say it like you mean it. And you owe her an “I’m sorry” as well.

Troy  ignores her again.

Mom (goes over and takes the present from him). Troy, you cannot have this present unless you say you’re sorry.

Troy: No! It’s my present… She gave it to me!

Mom: Rude kids don’t get presents around here, Troy.

Troy: I said thank you!

Mom: You barely said it. And you didn’t apologize for taking the present out of her hands.

Troy: I DIDN’T take the present out of her hands!

Mom: Yes you did! We all saw you.

Troy: No I didn’t!

Mom: Go to your room, Troy. You are not getting any presents. 

Troy melts down. 

How It Could Go

When Kids Are Not Polite

Scenario: Troy’s grandparents are visiting and have a gift for Troy. As his grandmother hands it to him, Troy snatches the box from her and runs to open it without saying thank you.

Mom: Troy. I don’t like how you took that box from your grandmother.

Troy ignores her and continues to open the present.

Mom walks over to Troy. She gently puts her hand on the gift.


Troy’s mom doesn’t like his attitude. She also knows that getting upset with him will only escalate the situation. So she focuses on maintaining her own calm rather than on his behavior.

Troy pulls away from her.

Mom (firmly but slowly): Troy. It’s exciting to get a gift.

Troy doesn’t respond.

Mom: It’s new, and you want to know what’s inside. Badly.

Troy: Then let me open it!

Mom: I’m going to after you try that again. I know you know how to take a gift nicely and say “thank you.”

Troy: I don’t want to.

Mom (sincerely): I know…. You want to open it NOW!


From Troy’s mom’s perspective, Troy is acting rude. But she also respects that Troy has a perspective too… and that he is a child who truly struggles to remember to be “polite” when he’s excited by something new.


Troy: YES!

Mom: It seems like your manners have flown off somewhere in all this excitement. We’re going to wait until they come back.

Troy starts to complain.

Mom doesn’t respond.

Troy: This is dumb.

Mom doesn’t respond. She just looks at him with compassion, knowing it really is hard for him to wait when he has something new.



As much as she respects Troy’s perspective, she also maintains her boundary. She does not let him open the gift after he’s been rude. And she also allows him to calm down a bit (while showing him that she’s on his side) so that he can start to access the more rational, positive-behavior part of his brain.

Troy (sighs): Fine.

Troy hands the gift back to his grandmother. This time he takes it more gently and says thank you.



What Must Happen 

For This To Work Better In the Moment


Troy’s mom was able to balance FIRMNESS with RESPECT when dealing with Troy’s behavior.

However, proactive actions will make all of the difference in whether you are able to stay calm, connect, and correct behavior effectively.



You will only be able to stay CALM if:

a.) your biological or emotional “needs accounts” are met (otherwise you won’t have a reserve to draw from and you’ll immediately go into Yuck) and

b.) you recognize and respect that your kids have have a different perspective and agenda than you do, and that their perspective and agenda matter to them.

When you make sure your own needs are met and you set realistic expectations PROACTIVELY, you are more likely to be able to stay calm.

You will only be able to CONNECT if:

a.) you respect that ALL behavior has a reason and

b.) you understand those reasons (in a case like this, that when kids are really excited by something, their “manners” (which they mostly only care about because you tell them to) fly out the window

When you become comfortable with the reasons behind behavior PROACTIVELY, you will be able to connect more effectively.

You will only be able to CORRECT behavior if:

a.) You have demonstrated consistently in the past that you mean what you say when you set a boundary like “We need to re-do on this situation; try again.”

b.) You have made enough deposits into your kids’ emotional needs that setting a boundary doesn’t put them immediately into Yuck.

When you demonstrate that you mean what you say and when you make deposits into your kids’ emotional needs PROACTIVELY, you  will be able to correct behavior more effectively.