Faking Nice

Be Nice

I’ve always said that civilizing students is part of my job.

While discussing how to improve classroom relationships, one of the girls said she didn’t feel the need to be friendly to girls she didn’t like.  “That would be like faking nice,” was her argument.  I explained that the world revolved around people “faking nice” to each other.  In the adult world, “faking nice” is another term for courtesy, tact, and manners.

For instance, when a senior citizen meanders down the supermarket aisle ahead of me, I wait for an opportunity to smile and go around.  It wouldn’t do either of us any good if I yelled at her to move faster.  And when someone greets me with a cheery “Good morning!” before 10 a.m., I refrain from biting his head off and instead reply with a terse “Morning.”

Learning to be genuine without hurting others’ feelings is an important social skill, despite what teens may see on reality TV.  But “faking nice” doesn’t come naturally; parents have to teach – and model – appropriate social behavior.  It’s helpful to point out to your teen when you’ve said something contrary to what you were thinking, and then have a discussion about why tactful responses are kinder than hurtful ones.

(By the way, if you run into those judges from American Idol, please tell them I’d like to talk to them.  Thanks!)

“You Don’t Care!”

My friend asked for advice because her 11-year-old son likes to throw this phrase at her, and she’s getting tired of hearing it.  She knows he doesn’t really think she doesn’t care, but it’s getting on her nerves all the same.

I suggested she explain to him that he’s confusing “caring” with letting him have his own way.  For example, he wants it quiet on the way to school so he can finish his homework.  When she won’t shush his brothers, she’s accused of not caring.  She can encourage him to use an “I” message, as in – “I’m so frustrated by all this noise!” – instead of attacking her.  Or he can think of other solutions, such as completing his homework the night before, getting up a little earlier, or wearing headphones in the car.  But she should definitely point out that they both know she does care, so it’s an unfair accusation.

I also suggested she could call it like it is and tell him he’s just being manipulative, and she doesn’t like it.  She could mention that such comments actually make her less willing to help him.   At 11, he will appreciate being involved in an adult-ish conversation (with big words), as well as being involved in the solution.

Parents should keep in mind that such comments are usually strategic tactics designed to deflect attention away from the issue at hand.  What parent isn’t sensitive to being accused of not being perfect enough?

Here’s a tip:  just put up your “Nice-try-kiddo” deflecting shield and let such remarks bounce right off of you!