My wise friend, Cynthia, once commented, “I do not allow my children to be rude. If they are spoken to, they must respond.” ( This refers to adults that the parents know or someone in a public place -like a store clerk- when the parent is with the child and the person is just making friendly conversation. You still need to teach your children to be wary of strangers who are trying to entice them.)
A wonderful lesson for children to learn. I began thinking about how I was training my children, or maybe how I might have failed some of them.
We are predominantly a family of introverts. With some exceptions, we need time alone to recharge and energize. The exceptions in our family are energized by being around people.
It is easy to excuse a child's rudeness. “Oh, they are so shy. They can't respond.” (introvert) If we provide excuses for our child's behavior, they will accept them. “Johnny is so shy.” “Susie is so tired.” And the list goes on. Introverts can be taught to respond politely. Extroverts can be taught to wait to speak and not interrupt. (Yes, extroverts can be rude, too.)
I have a friend whose son is now an adult. He can start and carry on a conversation with almost anyone. Has he always been this way? Probably not. He likes structure and routine and at one time was diagnosed with very high functioning autism. His mother taught him how to converse with people; how to respond when spoken to. She knew the art of conversation and taught it to all her children; no excuses allowed.
After my friend’s comment about not allowing her children to be rude, I decided to make a better effort to train my children, especially the younger ones, to speak when spoken to. I really appreciated the adults who allowed me to do this and use their interaction for training. One lady at church, during the 'meet and greet' time, waited patiently while I prompted my child to return her greeting. This child did not want to speak. The lady continued to smile and wait while I explained to the child that she must speak. Eventually she spoke and the lady was very kind and courteous. It does not help a parent when another adult notices the child's discomfort (yes, there will be discomfort) and says, “Oh, it's ok. Don't worry about it.” This provides an excuse for the child and they miss valuable training.
If you have an extrovert who wants to talk to everybody about everything, including interrupting adult conversations, their training is a little different. They need to learn to wait their turn to talk and not to interrupt.
I am not suggesting that you try to make your introvert into an extrovert or vice-versa. I am saying that their personality type should not be an excuse to be rude. Introverts and extroverts need to be taught to be polite in social settings. For the introverted child, make sure they have alone time to recharge. For the extroverted child, make sure they have social time to be energized.
I'm not sure I got this one right when raising my children, but I do believe that with proper training, any child can be comfortable and polite in social settings.
Something to contemplate: is your child learning to be polite?