Fa-la-la-NOT

Dear Parentworks,

This is supposed to be the time of good cheer and good will...have you been out to the malls lately? Two weeks before Thanksgiving we were at Costco - in the middle of the week, the middle of the day - not even "rush hours" and I couldn't believe how rude people were being. They'd leave their carts completely blocking main aisles so they could get free food samples. Others would bump right into us with their carts while they weren't watching where they were going. On TV the day after Thanksgiving we saw images of people TRAMPLING over others or getting in fights in their rush to buy their gifts. Fa-la-la-la-la! How are we supposed to tell our children about how to properly behave, use their manners and be kind to others when, especially at this time of year, adults are so rude and selfish!?!

- Trying not to feel Scrooge-y

Dear Scrooge-y,

Sadly these kinds of issues come up every year. A friend who also highly valued teaching their children appropriate social skills said, "Good manners never go out of style." When out shopping with children at this time of year, it is definitely best to avoid the "rush hours" but as you experienced - any day and any time during the holidays - can be tricky. I don't know if it's that more people venture out of their homes but judging from road and mall congestion it would certainly appear that is the case. So it may not be the case that more people are actually becoming rude these days, but with more people out and about during the holidays the number of rude ones we run across just goes up. While logical, it really doesn't help much in feeling better though about all this does it?

The bottom line is that it is never ok to be rude and selfish. However, many people can grow older and taller without getting the message of good social skills. Age doesn't equal maturity. As a parent though it is useful for you to remember that children will notice those things that we draw attention to or focus. So if you're frequently pointing out how rude or inconsiderate people are, your child will come to notice that as well. If, on the other hand, you work to keep focus on the positive things that you experience then that is what they will see too. But children are very observant and if it is your young ones pointing out with confusion or surprise their observations of inappropriate adult behavior it is important to acknowledge and address their concerns.

Use the opportunity to let your child know that you agree that what that grown up is doing isn't what your family believes is acceptable and that people only have control over what they do themselves - not other people. We don't know what makes other people behave so appallingly. Maybe the person at Costco was starving and that was the only food they were going to have that day - not very likely but see how a perspective like that can change your thinking about what you're seeing. Since the truth is we don't know why those people are doing those things, ultimately it's not our place to judge. Let your child know that it is unfortunate that those people chose to act that way but that your children can choose differently. Your children can choose to be kind and considerate even if they're in a hurry. Knowing that they can do the right thing, in the long run not only sets a good example but can make them feel good about their own behavior. By focusing on the positive, they'll see that there are far more people who believe in helpful choices and act on those choices than the few who fall short of life's ideal. Let your child know that each of us can only do what we can do because it's a great big world out there.