What Not to Teach Your Children

Teach your children to be kind and caring, not selfish and rude.
Mother and daughter having a special moment. Hero Images/Getty Images

For the first several years of a child's life, the parents are the most important people in the world. The little ones look up to the grownups who take care of them, so they listen with rapt attention. It may seem like a short-lived situation, but the things kids learn in the first few years of their lives stick. That's why it's important to step up to the plate, put aside the urge to share your rude thoughts, and teach the children to do the right thing.

They need to understand the importance of good manners.

I've been looking around and watching things parents tell their children. Here are 7 of the rudest lessons I've seen.

Expecting Kids to Lie

Rude lesson: "Tell them I'm not home."

This one baffles me. Parents harp on their kids to be honest and truthful, yet they expect their offspring to lie when they don't feel like talking to or seeing someone. When someone comes to the door or calls, asking your child to lie for you is undoing everything you've taught them.

What you can do instead: When you have your child answer the phone, ask her to say something truthful, like, "My mom can't come to the phone now. Can she call you back later?" Or if she's answering the door, but you don't want to see someone, she can say, "Please wait out here. I'm not allowed to invite anyone in without my parents' permission."

Comparing Your Children with Each Other

Rude lesson: "Why can't you be more like your sister?"

This is one of those comments that probably spew from a parent's mouth before he or she realizes how damaging it can be. Not only does it make it appear that you're playing favorites it can be the start of a serious rivalry that lasts through adulthood. Your children are individuals so don't expect them to be alike in any way.

Your firstborn might have been precocious when it came to following orders, but subsequent children probably have other skills and talents that you can praise. Never expect one child to be like anyone else in the family. If you're using one child to manipulate the behavior of others, it will backfire.

Making Your Children Feel Guilty for Their Existence

Rude lesson: "Life was so much easier before you were born."

The above statement may be true, but you should never say that to your children. You are the one who brought them into the world, so deal with it and be the best parent you possibly can. You don't want to teach your children to react with harsh words, so don't use them yourself.

When you feel overwhelmed, you're better off saying something softer, like, "Mommy needs a few minutes of quiet time," or "Give me a few minutes to think through this problem." That shows your children that you are human without making them think they're the source of the problem.

Making the Kids Feel Guilty About Anything

Rude lesson: "You are so selfish."

Remember that your children learn what they know from you, starting at a very early age. Show empathy and selflessness, and your kids are more likely to mirror that behavior.

Let your children see you do things for others, and they are likely to want to emulate your actions. Hold doors for older people and do nice things for neighbors. Always use polite language. Praise your children for being kind to others.

Allowing Your Children to Feel Entitled

Rude lessons: "Go ahead and cut in line while no one is looking."
"Help yourself and don't worry about anyone else."
"You deserve (anything)."

An attitude of entitlement often starts early. Teaching children that they deserve anything simply because of their existence creates frustration and rudeness later in life.

Encourage your children to get in line, take their turn, and wait. If you want a better position in line, show up early. Children shouldn't feel entitled to anything, just because they belong to you.

One of the best examples that I've seen of a parent doing the right thing was when a wealthy business owner in town brought his children to work at a soup kitchen once a year.

His children grew up to be good citizens who cared about others and never took their position for granted.

Laughing at or Praising Bad Behavior

Rude lesson (when the child's cuteness is based on bad behavior): "Isn't he cute?"
"She's always known what she wants, and she won't take no for an answer."

Children who are praised for acting out or saying inappropriate things turn out to be boors when they are older. As teenagers, they typically become the mean kids or bullies, and as adults, they are the people everyone runs away from.

Parents need to stifle the urge to laugh at or make excuses for bad behavior. Instead, they should remove the little one from the situation, repeat the expected actions, and wait until the child calms down before allowing him or her to return.

Constantly Talking on the Phone or Texting

Rude lesson: "Can't you see I'm on the phone?"

Parents who ignore their children in favor of an electronic conversation need to stop and think about the message this sends. The kids will feel that they aren't as important as the little device, and they're more likely to act out to get your attention, creating frustration for everyone involved.

When your phone rings during dinner or while you're having spending important time with your child, either let your voicemail pick up or tell the person you'll call back later. This shows respect to the people who should mean the most to you. Also remember that you don't have to answer most text messages immediately; they can wait until your child is napping or having quiet time in her room.