From the Teachable Moment March 1998:
"Rudeness! I'm surrounded by rudeness! Help! How do I handle it? Do I respond with my own version of poor manners or do I model patience and assertiveness combined with kindness?
Whatever I choose, as a homeschooling mom, I'm definitely modeling it! My children are constantly observing my reactions to the situations around me. In the case of a shy daughter, it's been great for her to see that you don't have to let rude people run over you. It is possible to use the parameters of what would be reasonable to expect in a situation and then to voice your opinion kindly.
Our traffic situations in Tallahassee give us all great opportunities to practice patience skills. These are times when you probably don't need to voice an opinion (road rage exists here too). I personally use a destressing option of reading at red lights. (Of course, I have a lookout posted to let me know when the light is about to change! I wouldn't want to stress anyone behind me and add to the rudeness factor!) (2012 followup: This was written well before texting became popular.)
Recently a gentleman was very upset with my decision making abilities regarding a terrible intersection near my home. It petrifies me and has a high incidence of crashes (no matter what the Department of Transportation says. My own neighbor has been slammed around in it!). I actually thought about getting out of the car and going back for an educational chat with him.
However, I knew my 15 year old son was observing Mom's reaction. Knowing that he will be driving soon and never wanting him to even think of such a solution, I stayed in my seat and proceeded across the intersection when I felt we would come out in the same arrangement of body parts. Thank goodness for homeschooling!
Dealing with credit card solicitors over the telephone has given me lots of practice too. Yes, I could slam down the telephone and be rude myself, but I'd rather teach my children there is a person on the other end that is trying to perform a job that will earn them money. I certainly don't know what their situation is. It might be desperate and that person might be doing the very best he can. I can be firm without being rude. (2012 Followup: I feel very sure those who are doing these calls are definitely desperate now in this current economy.)
We often find ourselves wondering why a person chose a particular behavior in a certain situation. Learning to look from another person's perspective is an important skill that seems to be fading away in our society. It's interesting to me that schools spend a lot of time teaching children mediation skills-they have programs set up just for this.
I feel we can teach it better. I think it's wonderful that we can teach our kids that we can have our own opinions, we don't have to be doormats for others and we can still accomplish all this while maintaining respect for the other person.
Of course, the biggest challenge comes up with the family unit itself. Our family has discovered it takes great work and a constant practicing. We don't give up when we fail, we try again. Parents are taken aback when their wonderful babies grow into adolescents who push limits and are disrespectful at the same time. I have personally wondered if there's a night class somewhere they all take together while the parents are sleeping!
So, as for myself, I will keep striving to practice all this. You're forewarned now if you have the misfortune to get behind me in traffic. Honking your horns and making rude gestures isn't going to hurry me up!"
A funny 2012 followup: During my reading at red light days when I had children in the car to be my lookouts, our editor in the local newspaper did an editorial and included something about seeing a woman reading at red lights! She was not impressed! I am convinced to this day she was talking about me. I guess she never realized kids can be trained to say, "Mom, the light's about to change!" It still makes me chuckle!