unfriendly children

There was a time when parents controlled kids. Yes, kids of my generation. Most of us grew up having a pally relationship with our moms and a distant one with our dads whom we feared. A normal way to stifle our mischief was when mom told us, “Wait for your dad to come back from work, I will tell him.” That calmed down the most boisterous of kids. And when dads walked in, the kids were extremely well-mannered, did their homework, watched TV or played without noise. And then there were studies. We all had to study, no matter what our aptitude or inclination (not the best of systems, I agree). After the 12th Boards, it was a mad rush for either Engineering or Medicine. A few went on to do graduation to take up MBA or Civil Services. Science was the stream of choice with the highest cut-offs. Even the best did not score in the high 90s.

Cut to today, we have parents who are more involved, less feared and definitely less in control of our kids. The question is – Do we need to control our kids? Not really. But do we need to discipline them and inculcate basic etiquette in them? Certainly. Have we tipped over too far that we are letting the children dictate their lives and to some extent ours?

Just a few days back, we visited a family. This was the first time we were meeting them. The parents were very friendly and we instantly warmed up to them. The kids were a different story altogether. One of them who was the younger son’s age was detached and disinterested bordering on the rude. He did not even say the usual hi or try to make small talk. As a matter of fact, the parents kept nudging him constantly to show his books, his toys etc. but neither did he budge from his place, nor did he bother to answer in sentences or look at the children his parents were hosting. He had a permanent scowl on his face and grunted when someone spoke to him. I can understand a shy child but not open unfriendliness or detachment.

There was another teen in the house who came a good hour later, glanced at everyone and went to her room where she was on the phone. During the dinner, the four children were seated at the dining table, not saying a word. It was one of those rare times when I’ve seen quiet children. As we bid them goodbye, I couldn’t help but wonder why children of such gregarious parents were so unfriendly. Isn’t it basic courtesy to politely talk to someone who visits your home?

What do you feel?

Pic courtesy: Jan H Andersen on Shutterstock



19 Thoughts on “When Kids Are Unfriendly

  1. I agree with a lot of your observations. Perhaps, it is to do with the way we have been brought up. I mean, I personally did not like engaging too much with guests, but I had been brought up asking to do so – so in the interest of being courteous and polite (and also fearing the discussion that would come later), I did.
    But as the newer generations come, I think there’s a more ‘I am your pal’ approach to parenting, and while it has its positives, I guess on the downside, the kids are more assertive in the sense and more likely to say no to things. And of course, compared to say 20 years back, kids today are rarely as courteous as perhaps the ones were back then.

    So maybe a mixture of parenting, factors around them, technology that makes it easier to basically interact without having to show any emotions – all of these may be a factor.

    After all, a parent can only try so much.
    Sid recently posted…Too Hot to HandleMy Profile

    • I was similar, Sid. I was quite an introvert and had no interest in talking to strange kids. But in the interest of being polite, I would speak to the children and even show them around my room or make small talk. Exactly, the parents would give a lot of grief later, if I did not. 🙂

      I also tend to agree that kids are more assertive now which is not all bad, but there ought to be some basic manners. I am not even talking about the general irreverence to elders which is quite widespread now, but at least be social with other kids your age. Or is that too much to ask as well? I have seen kids who are shy but these guys were so indifferent, it was kind of strange. That when the parents in question had insisted to bring along the kids. 🙂

  2. There are a lot of factors at play here. For one thing, kids may just be very shy and not comfortable with company. I, for one, would say a quick hello and excuse myself in my teens. I suppose it’s that awkward stage as well. It’s not a conscious wish to be rude or anything, it’s just that kids don’t know how to feel comfortable in company.

    On the other hand, when I have tried to engage with kids at their level on something that interests them, they generally respond. So it’s a two-way street, I guess. They’ll probably be more social in circles they are comfortable with or grow into that social structure when they are older. I was a rank introvert with no wish to do anything but read when I was growing up. Teaching and hostel life both changed my social skills considerably.

    Rudeness again may be just the awkwardness manifesting.
    Shailaja Vishwanath recently posted…Quick – #FlashFiction #AtoZChallengeMy Profile

    • I agree. There may be many factors at play. I was an introvert too and I know exactly what you are saying. As a matter of fact, the son shared a passion of football and the same club they both were insanely passionate about. The elder son tried to speak of a recent game and initiate many conversations but the boy would just not reply. Like I said, I understand shy behaviour. My own younger son takes a little time to open up, and I generally tell other parents/kids. But I have seen him open up in likeminded company. The other boy also read Big Nate like him. That was when his father had asked him to show his collection but he showed no interest. Oh and he sat in the living room all the while but without any interest.
      The husband and I tried to make polite conversation with both the kids but like I mentioned nothing beyond mono syllables from them. It is not as if I will rush to judge other kids. I understand that kids may be awkward, but one has got to be at least polite to people visiting. I would expect the same from my kids.
      I do hope that they pick up social skills because they are really important in life.

  3. We have met some kids who behave in a way we would never have behaved in our time. These days kids misbehave in others people’s homes and the parents don’t say or do anything. A year or so back a kid broken a beautiful glass (one out of a set) at our place and his parent’s didn’t even bother to reprimand him. While I don’t mind the loss of the glass so much but I feel the parents will one day regret not disciplining their kids. These days kids have such tantrums which I don’t recall that we could even dare throw. I don’t know what has happened and that’s why it scares me. I hope I’m able to parent M just as my parents have done with me. I hope she doesn’t become one of those kids.
    Nabanita Dhar recently posted…A Letter To My Gapped TeethMy Profile

    • Yes, that too, Naba. I have seen children hit other kids, use foul language, break things, jump on your furniture while the parents don’t bat an eyelid. How is that behaviour okay? At least, tell your child not to do it. Yeah, the tantrums are on the rise as parents prefer the easier way out by ignoring than by confronting the situation and thinking of how to improve the child’s behaviour. I am all for being a friend to my children, but first and foremost, I am their parent. It is my duty to inculcate discipline and basic manners in them. I am sure M will do just fine. As parents, you and I take stock and constantly assess our parenting. Besides, we have a solid foundation of our own childhoods to fall back upon.

  4. Rachna, if I have to choose between courtesy and honesty, I will choose honesty. Well, rudeness is a subjective term. If someone asks you to put your butt down, you’d find it rude but if the same person says, “tasweef rakhiye,” you’d find it polite.

    If you ask me, the problem is not their behavior but your expectation, as you mentioned in your reply to Shailaja: “I would expect the same from my kids.”

    You labeled the kids as rude, unfriendly, and detached but do you want to know the reason behind their behavior? Maybe they had some outing or other plans and it was cancelled because of your arrival! Maybe his scowl was really at you!

    Children are innocent. They don’t pretend like adults. They don’t smile at you when they’re cursing you inside.

    I don’t know whether it’s rude or polite but one thing I’m damn sure that it’s friendly. I could make it more polite after 2-3 redrafts but I expect you to understand that my intention is not to hurt. 🙂

    • Ravish, you are entitled to your opinion. But if this is the kind of honesty that everyone started practising then it will just be an unpleasant world. I am sure every bad behavior can be explained or justified. I would have been okay if the child had got up and gone inside. To sit there and be disinterested was a bit strange. I am not maligning them just trying to think of the reasons why someone cannot do basic small talk.

  5. Tell me about it. I’m struggling with this same issue – of teaching the children to engage in small talk now that they’re old enough to do so. I have a half done post on this but I’ll say it here again. Our children aren’t brought up the way we were. Mine do not have the kind of exposure to formal entertaining that I had when I was a child. Though of course there is no reason to scowl or be rude. But a lot of tweens and teens are definitely dismissive of guests. And that is sad.
    Obsessivemom recently posted…10 things to do with tweens during vacationsMy Profile

    • I know. They are not. In general, all kids are irreverent. I have seen many kids at varying levels of disinterest but this behavior felt a bit excessive for me to write a post on it. I am okay if the child just says a hi and goes away. We know many kids do that. But to sit there and have a scowl on the face comes across as rude.

  6. I don’t know, Rachna. Kids today have to deal with a lot more stress than we ever did in our childhood. So much competition and peer pressure already! It’s hard to say what might be going on in their minds at that time. Maybe they just had a rough day.

    Parenting is anyway a tricky job. With no instruction manual. I see so many different types of kids at my shop every day. Some are confident and know exactly what they want. Some take ages to decide on one thing. Some keep looking up at their mom for approval on everything.

    Rudeness is something that should certainly be dealt with strictly by the parents.

    Good to read a post from you after so long!

  7. You are right, Rachna. Introversion is one thing, being rude is an entirely different matter.

    I personally was never good at small talk, still struggle in that department. But when I was growing up, being friendly was optional to us, being polite was non-negotiable. But then like you said, we were brought up in a different time.

    And this is something I wonder ever so often, in-spite of only having a 5 year old as of now. That little guy has developed quite a personality, and a mind of his own. And we are still trying to straddle that delicate balance of being authoritative, yet friendly at the same time.
    Shantala recently posted…My Quarterly Goals for Spring Quarter (April – June 2017)My Profile

  8. Yeah it’s tough these days with the kids. I don’t know if the problem is with our parenting or with the kids. I think we are somewhere caught between wanting the old value system with a new way of parenting, where we want them to behave more out of understanding than fear. However the old way of discipling did make us quite good with basic etiquettes. Don’t know how today’s kids will evolve with our new gen parenting.
    Asha recently posted…Dittory : The Divine InterventionMy Profile

  9. Each child reacts differently to strangers. My own daughter has always preferred keeping to herself. Many mistake it for snootiness.
    She just can’t engage is small talks.

    I wouldn’t read too much into it.
    Purba Ray recently posted…A Bed Is Not Just a Bed, Its Much MoreMy Profile

  10. It depends. Children are different from parents, they have their likes and dislikes. As they grow they become courteous and do things to be civil etc. Most kids are like that… even in olden days that was the case… we should not take it wrong since it takes time to know someone and warm up to someone. I don’t think it’s because of the upbringing of family and all. A typical family or ideal should be together, host guests together and be cool and all, maybe those kids don’t spend quality time with family, that’s what I think, anyway.
    Stefinia recently posted…5 Easy Steps To Repair Your Damaged Curly Hair – Easy Remedies For Damaged Curly HairMy Profile

  11. I totally agree with you Rachna.Today’s young parents are more liberal than those of my age were but the kids today grab more liberties than are given to them.In the process discipline and etiquette are also ignored.
    induchhibber recently posted…Cognitive Distortion-PersonalizationMy Profile

  12. I feel something wrong with our parenting.

  13. Pingback: Of growing children and social etiquette – Obsessivemom

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