On Being Nice

Recently, a friend shared this story over on the book of face

Today at <restaurant> while <child’s name> and I were eating a man started talking to <child’s name> about his stuffed animal.

Man: that’s an unusual dog. ( it’s a teddy bear)
Child: [looks at man. Does not respond]
Man: you aren’t gonna talk to me ??
Child: [looks away]
Me: no he isn’t .

A. You are a stranger . My son is not being “rude,” and there is no reason for him to discuss or chat with you .
B. We teach kids not to talk to strangers. Social niceties are not necessarily a good practice for kids
C. ‪#‎sorrynotsorry‬

Bravo, I say!

But, of course, there was dissent, this is the internet, after all. One commenter lamented that it was “sad” that she was “creating unnecessary fear” in her child. Another tried to make the argument that it wasn’t a threatening situation. Another implied that she was teaching her son to be rude and disrespectful.

All because she supported her son’s choice not to speak to a stranger. This is insanity.

As a society, we’ve developed this warped idea that not nice=rude. There’s space between. He was not impolite, and he was not rude. He has absolutely no responsibility to be nice. He should be, and I assume he is, kind where warranted, but he doesn’t have to be nice. 

No one has the responsibility to be nice. You do not have to speak to the stranger in the parking lot that just needs a bit of change, or gas money, or…Well, really that stranger just wanted to get close enough to grab your wallet or steal your car. Or worse.

Because of course you should be nice to the young man that wants to sit in on your Bible study.

Sure, she was right there. The risk potential of that situation was minimal, but what kind of lesson does that teach her child? If Mom encourages him to be nice to the stranger in the restaurant, how should he react to the stranger in the bathroom? As a parent, you have to think beyond the moment. You must model the skill set so your child can make appropriate decisions in the future.

My friend pointed out that later, her son approached the cashier and politely requested a refill of his beverage. This doesn’t sound like he’s being crushed by unnecessary fear of people. Instead, he is learning an appropriate level of caution.

Living in a polite society does not mean that you must be nice to strangers. Of course, one should not be rude, impolite, or unkind, but that does not mean you owe it to anyone to be nice.





11 thoughts on “On Being Nice”

  1. Caution smaushin, there’s also the whole “why the fuck should I give my child early training that he owes random people interaction because they demanded it”. Stranger danger may be greatly exaggerated, but THAT is a hell of a lot more insidious.

  2. We had some rules: If we knew the adults who attempted to interact with us, first, the kids figured out we knew them, and second, we introduced (or, re-introduced) the kids and the adult. Children, depending on age, may not have a high level of social interaction skills, but they aren’t stupid – if they recognized that we didn’t know them (not using names, no brief conversations re: “What’s been going on”, formally polite but not personal interaction on our part, etc.), they were under no obligation to engage that individual. Ignoring politely, yes, disrespecting, no. It was our job as parents to manage the situtation, and the kids became pretty good at understanding cues. They were, of course, dependent upon us to manage whatever situation existed; as parents that was our job until they became fully functional adults.

  3. Wasn’t it Thomas Paine that said being honest means sometimes not being nice? Or something close to that.

  4. ProudHillbilly on June 25, 2015 at 6:10 pm said:
    “50 years ago OK. These days do NOT interact with strangers.”

    I’m 58 and 50 years ago the rule my mom laid down was: “Don’t talk to strangers.” And she was serious about it. And she wasn’t a “helicopter” mom: I and my siblings were allowed to go where-ever we wanted to go — just be home for dinner.

    I’d say your friend is doing fine.

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