Why Aren’t We Rude to Grown-ups the Way We Are Rude to Kids?

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About Ben Martin

Ben Martin is the senior editor of the Marriage section at the Good Men Project. He stayed home with his kids for 5 and a half years before going back to school to become a social worker. After his daughter was diagnosed with juvenile arthritis, he and his family moved to Boston and he returned to being a stay-at-home dad. On this second time around, he's taken a more thoughtful approach to being a husband and father. You can find his personal blog at www.afamilyinthecity.com. You can also follow him on twitter @FamilyintheCity


  1. One of the best articles I have read in a really long time. Spot on. Brilliant. Could not agree more.

  2. You make a very good point! I too am guilty of snapping at my kids and then get exasperated when they melt down or dare to speak to me in the same tone. I have seen a little saying that states, “The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.” Thank you for the reminder!

  3. Exactly!
    I thought something similar when I was leaving my gym. There was a big white slobbery dog ‘locked up’ waiting outside the door and as everyone walked by they said things like, “Hey Big Guy,” or “Oh aren’t you cute!” and bent down to rub his neck…

    I wondered why the members were not so nice to each other, hardly looked at others in the eye or smiling as they passed in the locker room or on a bike, but to a non-human… they were so friendly and positive…

    Sad realization that people treat each other and kids so poorly.

    • Well to be fair, if someone in the locker room looked at me and said “Hey Big Guy, aren’t you cute” and started rubbing my neck, that might not go over so well…

      That said, good point – we often treat animals better than we treat each other. Then again… Some people don’t.

  4. The thought occurs that some people speak that way to children because kids are smaller and there is no backlash from treating children this way unless its extremely ovbious you’re abusing them. The further thought occurs that some people like to talk to kids like dirt because they’re self-centred abusive assholes who get off on control and degredation. There ARE those who have just hit their limit (parents) and those who simply dont know how to speak to children (not-parents), but these are temporary states. There are a LOT of people out there who exist in a permanently malicious state and taking cheap shots at defenceless people makes them feel big. Its disgusting.

  5. Yes. YES. YES!! Thank you for saying what most people don’t connect when speaking to children – Kids learn to speak to others – in the exact ways that they have been spoken to. Be kind.

  6. Yes, It drives me crazy when I hear my kindergartner dish out my very own bad attitude. It pushes my buttons and gives me the much needed reminder that I am indeed responsible for his outlook on life and the way he treats himself and those around him. Its also a good reminder that I must not sound so pleasing when I’m dishing it out myself. Its a good look in the mirror.

  7. Well, let me be the other side of the coin and say a snapshot of how people are is not a good gauge as to how they are at all times. Also when it comes to reaction to poor behavior, even if not intentionally, the more its corrected the shorter someone will be with them. Your notion that we don’t speak to adults the same way is wrong if you think about it like this; lets say I tell my husband to take out the garbage on Monday at 6pm. By 7 its not out so I remind him, nicely of course. 8pm still in the can. 9pm I am ready to go to bed and the garbage is STILL in the kitchen. he finally takes it out at 10 before going to bed, but after its stunk up the kitchen. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday we have the same situation. Do you think by 8pm on Friday I am going to tell him in the same tone I did on Monday?

    When my kids were young I saw my son’s 2nd grade teacher looking like she was just ran over by a truck. She sighed and said “I can’t believe its only Tuesday I don’t know how I will make it all week” and as a few kids came running into the class tossing their backpacks to the ground she snipped “hey you know better than that!” At the time I left thinking she is sort of mean to be a teacher, so I went in and talked to the principal about it. I was then told she was a Kindergarten teacher for 9 years but was told to quit because of medical problems resulting in panic attacks. She opted to move to 2nd grade because the school divided students into smaller groups with several teachers allowing her to have less than 10 kids most of the day. Over the school year I learned how great she was at teaching kids, and realized her tense nature was partially from conditioning.

    Its easy to say “I will never yell at my kids” but sometimes there is no way to talk to them in a calm voice. When my 2 boys were small and would fight/ wrestle around it was cute, but as the years went by and they grew up we would end up with holes in the wall, broken furniture and one time an arm through a window that resulted in 9 stitches. When they start fighting my voice does go up, about 50 decibels up, especially given they are now 18 & 20 and can do quite a bit of damage in my home. Last time my oldest visited they instantly started wrestling and fell into a door ripping it off the hinges.

    On your example of the slow moving woman getting on the train no one would be rude just once, but if every morning this woman stood there and held up the line eventually someone is going to speak up very rudely, and the other regular riders will smile, even if inside, because they agree. I find myself yelling at coworkers and other adults more than I do my own kids because sometimes adults just need to be corrected. Just last night I snapped on an intoxicated man who felt the need to make belittling remarks to me.


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