“Oh, you’re Asian,” my friend said defensively. “That’s why your children are not rude to you.”

We had gone back to her former marital home to pick a few things up, and even before we walked through the front door, her 18-year-od rounded her, “Mum, my tennis whites are not washed. You know I play tennis on Tuesdays! Why are you so useless? You can’t even do one small thing right.”

Her mother is going through a very painful separation at the moment after a 21-year-marriage. She wasn’t even washing her own hair, let alone freaking tennis whites! It was on the tip of my tongue to defend my friend, then I remembered the golden rule in parenting: it is somebody’s personal journey. It is not for me to admonish another person’s child.

But my feelings must have been obvious because my friend made that defensive statement immediately.

A few years ago, my daughter chided our helper for putting her white football socks in with the coloured clothes or something like that.  I told her never to be so rude to the helper again. Strike one. And then it happened weeks later. Strike Two. You’re out, girl.

We have a zero tolerance policy in the house when it comes to rudeness. Appreciate what someone does for you, not cut them down with your ungrateful words because you are pissed off over something minor.

And guess what, from that day onwards, I told her that she is responsible for the laundry.  The helper will iron but not wash.  “If you have an issue about how someone does something for you, do it yourself.” It’s all about GRATITUDE.

Nothing to do with being Asian.

My friend’s daughter spoke to her in a tone that I would not allow my child, or even myself, to speak to anyone. Not even to a dog. Why is the girl so rude? Why does she behave like this? How? What? Why?

One source: her father speaks to their mother like this, The two daughters grew up hearing their father disrespecting their mother, treating her like dirt, so of course they picked it up and do the same to her.  It’s like picking up accents. We sound like our parents, because we learn how to speak from them.

My children, especially my youngest daughter, speaks to me in that bantering, sarcastic, oh-so-English way that their father speaks to me in (“Mum, you’re such a pain in the arse”). Many of my Asian friends find that difficult to accept.  That, I believe, it largely down to cultural norms and the closeness of personal relationships and the comfortable boundaries  of the relationship, rather than rudeness. We have a very close, boisterous relationship within the family, where there’s lots of physical wrestling and jostling around (main photo: my girls having a bundle), and that comes up naturally in the way we interact with one another.    For example, she banters with my dad and affectionately calls him a naughty old goat, and my father, who is a stickler for politeness, actually quite likes it.  It is what each family finds tolerable.


But joking aside,  Rudeness on the other hand are words that hurt or demean or belittle.

Kids learn stuff from the home first and foremost.  If you speak like shit to your spouse, then your children are going to grow up speaking shit to their future partners (oh yes!) and to you.  Thus, the best thing a parent can do for their children is to show gratitude and speak with respect to people, especially in front of children.