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Q&A for Teens: Stop Criticizing Me!
Q&A for Teens

Q&A for Teens: Stop Criticizing Me!

My teacher keeps kicking me out of class for being rude.


Dear Lauren,

I’m always getting kicked out of class for being rude. How can I change this?

This is a fantastic question because it’s so universal. As in: “My parents are always sending me to my room for being rude.” “My teacher is always kicking me out of class for being rude.” “My wife is always putting me in the doghouse for being rude.” “My siblings are always yelling at me for being rude.”

The second part of your question – “How can I change this?” – implies one of two things: (a) how can I control my temper so that I stop being so rude? Or, more likely, (b) why is my teacher/mother/father/wife/husband/brother/sister so obnoxious to me all the time, calling me “rude?” And how can I make him or her or them stop being so ridiculous?

Other people are in our life to give us pleasure and succor and friendship—and, oftentimes, they are there to help us grow by showing us our faults. Without teachers kicking us out of class and parents sending us to our rooms and spouses handing us a leash and a bone and siblings being unhappy with our behavior, how would we ever recognize our errors? How would we ever know what character imperfections we have to work on?

Almost without fail, when I have couples in my office, or when I have teenagers on my therapy couch complaining about their unfair teachers, or when I’m seeing parents and their adolescent child, each side assures me that the other side is being ridiculous.

I have a better plan.

When someone criticizes you, whether it’s your teacher, your parent, your spouse, your sibling, your client, your business partner, your boss – ask them, “Please tell me more about what I did that was rude. I want to understand how I can improve.” This, of course, is as opposed to our usual reaction of: “Nu-uh! I was NOT rude, you imbecile! YOU’RE the one who’s being rude!”

If we validate their viewpoint and improve our character even an iota, then everyone wins.

Even if our reaction to criticism is surprise, as in: “I was rude?! I SO did not mean to be rude,” that defensiveness prevents us from validating the other person’s point of view and prevents us from finding out from them what it was about our behavior which they perceived as rude. No one has a monopoly on "The Truth;" whether we were actually rude or not is sometimes hard to know for certain. But if someone else thinks we were rude, if we validate their viewpoint, and at the same time improve our character even an iota, then everyone wins.

This is how it would go:

Teacher: “Rachel, get out of my class. I can’t believe how rude you were.”

Rachel: (respectfully) “Yes, ma’am.” (Notice that awesome Southern touch of respect!)

After class, Rachel goes over to the teacher and says, “I want to be better. Please tell me more about how I was rude so that I can really work on it not happening again.”

Or, in the parent-child paradigm:

Parent: “Adam, get to your room! You are rude!”

Adam: (respectfully, as he’s going his room) “I want to be better. Please tell me more about how I was rude so I can work on myself.”

Or, in the spousal situation:

Wife: “You are rude and obnoxious to me!”

Husband: “I’m so sorry I hurt you. Please tell me more about what I did wrong, so I can make sure not to do that to you again.”

In the boss-worker scenario:

Boss: “Your behavior was rude and uncalled-for!”

Worker: “Tell me more about what I did wrong so I can fix it.”

I can almost guarantee that the response to these sincere and humble requests will be a softening on the other party’s part. It will very likely surprise you how quickly their anger will dissipate. When they do tell you more about how they perceived you as rude, really listen with honest, open ears. Nod your head. Say things like, “I see. I’m going to work on that,” and really mean it.

It's not easy to do this, but if you can muster the strength and give it a try, you’ll get invaluable input on how your actions are perceived by the people around you. You’ll get great advice on how you can be a better person. And because people who feel heard usually stop being as angry as they were before they felt heard, the other party will probably soften towards you, making your life much more pleasant.

The question is: are you courageous enough to try it?

(My dear readers, try this out and let me know how it goes in the comment section below.)

January 7, 2012

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Visitor Comments: 5

(4) devorox!!!, June 4, 2012 11:38 AM

Wow, it actually worx, im really surprised, basiccly my mom sent me 2 my room & instead of yelling back 2 her, i asked what i did wrong, she thought that was chutzpah, 'cuz i wasnt doing what she said, & then i told her that a Dr. Lauren article said 2 do this, and she calmed down! thnx 4 the suggestion.

(3) Anonymous, February 22, 2012 6:40 PM

talking respectfully doesnt work

so i was told to leave a lesson a couple of days ago and i really had no clue what i did wrong. so i said to the teacher "please can you tell me what i did wrong?" and it didnt work. i just got into more trouble and she told me im never allowed back in her lesson! so why did you say it works????

chaya, August 28, 2012 3:09 PM

read the article carefully

k, i have a couple comments to sapy to u. #1- if yoou read carefully, u will see that the article sajys to ask the teacher AFTER class wat u did wrong. #2-ur title says " talking respectfully doesnt work". just cuz it didnt work here doesnt mean it will never work! #3- if u did e/t rite and ur teacher still got mad @ u, then it's not ur fault, and ur teacher's a jerk.

(2) Yonatan, January 9, 2012 11:22 PM

A teacher's response

If wish this only this happened more often: "After class, Rachel goes over to the teacher and says, 'I want to be better. Please tell me more about how I was rude so that I can really work on it not happening again'.” The occassionaly student that gives you this response is not the repeat offender. The student that continually disrupts the class, and the reasons are varied, will seldom admit they erred and unfortunately feel they have been wronged. Secondly, if you have a weak administration that is unwilling or unable to back you up, offender will continue unabated to challenge the teacher and derive satisfaction that the class is not learning while their childish behavior is catered to.

(1) Dvirah, January 8, 2012 5:49 PM

Time and Place

I'm glad Ms. Roth showed in at least one of her examples that the time to ask what was so rude is after everyone has cooled down. My experience is that just asking the question, even if it is asked sincerely in a mild tone, can be interpreted as a defiance if asked when people are still angry. (It's also hard to get the tone right when one is still boiling!)

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