Sometimes, children are completely transformed when they come back from daycare or school. Your formerly kind and polite offspring now uses a vocabulary that you don’t understand, has a foul mouth and treats you with disrespect. You know this situation cannot last and you probably wonder what little brat has changed your child at school but wait a little bit before you start pointing fingers. Of course, you have to react but maybe it’s nobody’s fault.
From their first years in daycare, it is possible that your child starts acting in a way that you have never seen before. A bit of aggressiveness and a will to confront you are common behaviors that parents must adjust when their toddlers decide to imitate what they see elsewhere.
Later on, it is swear words and dodgy expressions that appear as your child begins to mingle with children who speak more… freely. If you are unlucky, a condescending attitude will come with the language.
During their teenage years, things will get more complicated. While some parents will be very permissive and believe that kids must experiment, others will try to use that last stretch to teach them all they can and to help them avoid problems. These methods can coexist but it is always hard to understand a different point of view so your child could copy others in their own way. Through their friends, they will absorb parts of other patterns and you may see them act like the neighbour.
But why do they copy the worst behaviours?
Children see, children do. They observe and reproduce any interesting behaviour that they see in you, in their friends and in movie characters. It is this variety that will slowly build their character and help them find their place among the others.
For many children seeking their identity, there are no good or bad behaviours. Of course, they can hear your tips and warnings but as long as bad behaviours have no other consequence than making parents and teachers angry, they will not understand why they should not choose the easy way. It is only later, at work and in their personal life that they will understand the rewards of being a polite and respectful person.
For the moment, swear words and bad actions make other children laugh, and gives them attention. When you are little and get attention, you win. When you are older and defy authority, you feel free. How can you resist these little minutes of popularity that were so easily earned?
What can we do?
First, avoid telling them how easy to manipulate they are or to label them in any other way because it will make them feel even worse about themselves and they are doing that (swearing, for example) to get attention and to feel appreciated. In general, they are acting in ways that will make them look cool at school and respectable at home so they are likely to accept your constructive criticism. Don’t hesitate to tell them when they do something that is unacceptable. It might take a long time but they will understand, learn and get wiser much more than if you regularly scream at them because you had enough.
Also avoid blaming their best friend if they swore, stole or disrespected an adult. They must understand that they are responsible for their own actions. Instead, try to help them value what they know. If they are proud of who they are, it will make it easier for them to feel cool just the way they are and to accept their good manners.