Street smart or just bad mannered..

.. is something that depends on how we view it, is something I’ve come to understand.

I’ve heard people pass judgments on NRI children for numerous faults(perceived and read) of theirs. To be honest, I am yet to meet those NRI kids who seem to be super fussy, or refuse to mix with people in India. Most of our friends kids have a wonderful time in India, just like daughter always did. All the years we lived abroad, we used to make a yearly trip to India, and had never found daughter facing any trouble fitting in. She made friends easily with her cousins, and always had a wonderful time in India. One of the reasons why it was quite easy for us to take the step of moving back to India.

A few days after we came here, we were at the apartment play ground, when some other girls came to play there. Daughter wanted to join them, so I asked her to go ahead, and try saying a ‘Hi’. She did, and much to her surprise, they saw her, heard her, and yet chose to ignore her completely. She was surprised and upset. That incident made her worry if her new school mates would be just as rude. Thankfully, she made friends with other children who had joined at the same time as her, and she was happy. She’s had company and she slowly started making new friends as well. Once in a while, I would hear of children being a little rude- and that I would ask her to ignore. There would be instances of some child telling her that she can’t join the group and other stuff like that. Which I’ve just asked her to ignore and find someone else to play with. Mostly, she’s been happy. Her friends are nice and sweet, and she feels happy around them.

Yesterday, daughter was cycling and I was walking beside her when I overheard a bunch of kids talking. They were almost ragging one of the children. There was this ‘leader’ who was leading in her taunts. She said rather unkind things to this girl, and the others followed suit. Finally, the poor kid, was almost in tears, when they started berating her for crying like a baby. Until then, I wasn’t sure if I should intervene or ignore, but something snapped in me. I couldn’t just watch them. So I walked up to them and asked them what was going on.
Immediately one of them said, ‘She’s crying for no reason’.

So I asked her, ‘Did you say anything to make her cry?’. No, came the answer, she just cries for no reason. So then I told them that I heard everything that they said, and to say the least, they had been very unkind. I also told them that if they don’t want to play with someone, that’s fine, but it is wrong to bully someone like this. I asked them to think how they would feel if someone did the same to them. Thankfully they seemed to understand and they apologized and played nicely with her the whole evening. But it made me sad to see how easily children learn this tricks of picking on people, of creating groups and leaders..

As some one was telling me, people encourage their children to be street smart, mistaking bullying behaviour for assertiveness and smartness. Being assertive is a wonderful trait in any child, but walking over others and bullying is another thing. From what I’ve seen in the few weeks that I have been here, it’s quite a common assumption that a child who is a bully is actually street smart and that is something positive.

Another friend was mentioning how her child(6 year old) was called a ‘Fool’ just because he was playing in a playground in which others were playing as well. The saddest part was that their mothers were right there, and nobody bothered to stop that child. My friend was mentioning that her son is quite sensitive and this sort of things affect him.

It really makes me wonder, just when being bad mannered and uncouth, has become a good thing, and when being street smart meant walking over others. And just as all NRI kids are not bad mannered, all Indian kids are not perfectly well-mannered either.

I’d rather have my daughter grow up gentle, assertive and standing up for the right causes – no matter which part of the world she grows up in. If she is considered non-street-smart, so be it.

35 thoughts on “Street smart or just bad mannered..

  1. Thank you for this! I am so tired of young children talking way beyond their years – a 10 year old once asked me if I would live with my in-laws after I get married and her parents were all praise for how ‘worldly’ she was!

    God! No wonder they grow up saying whatever they feel like! How can the parents be proud? Its beyond me!

    I can’t vouch for all children but most NRI kids I’ve met are wonderfully well-mannered. I guess its eventually the upbringing that counts, rather than where you live.

    True, couldn’t agree more.

    “I’d rather have my daughter grow up gentle, assertive and standing up for the right causes – no matter which part of the world she grows up in. If she is considered non-street-smart, so be it.” – Loved that last line.

    Thanks 🙂

  2. I totally agree with you Smits! Bullying is most of the times misconstrued as street-smartness. And the view that NRI kids are more ill mannered than Indian kids is the most ridiculous misconception I have come across!

    I have heard this so many times, that it just gets my goat!

    Give Kunju a tight hug from me and tell her to steer clear from such indisciplined kids.

    Will do:) And that’s what I tell her too.

    It happens with Namnam too whenever we go home, you know. The kids in the locality at times exclude her from their group and mock at her for not knowing the games they play, howsoever much she tries to go forward and ask to be let into the group. It hurts me to see her forlorn face and angers me to see such insensitive behavior of our children. I tell her to either sternly tell them that they are being rude or just ignore and come away never to play with them again.

    That’s what I tell her too. I just wish the children were taught to be a little more sensitive. For some reason, back in the UK, it was not so bad.

    I mean I am all for being street smart, especially in our country, esp in a city like Delhi one needs to learn to be smart and assertive to get fact there are times when I have wished that Namnu were a little more aggressive and would learn stand up to herself at difficult situations like the one I mentioned above. but thats not to say that street smartness should give way to being rude and callous. Such uncouth behaviours should be sternly dealt with, like how handled the situation and made those kids understand.

    Street smart – yes, but what I’ve seen is that in the name of street smart, it’s just rude, ill-mannered kids.


  3. You said it .. KIDS here are far more better , I can vouch for that , I was horrified when last time I went to meet a friend, His kids did not even have the decency to come down and say hello to me .. Now that to me is RUDE

    I wouldn’t generalize, but I have seen so many badly behaved children here, that it puzzles me why people believe that NRI kids are little monsters. It all depends on the parents really, no matter where they happen to stay.

    I was taught by my parents anyone comes home I have to make sure that I come and say my greetings and then go and do what I want to ..

    Yes, I think even today, a lot of children are very well behaved.. But a lot of them do seem to be badly behaved.

    And Bullying well let me not start on that at all .. And god forbid you say anything to those kids their parents will come at your with all daggers as if you have , I had a friend say to me on my face that I should not say anything to his son .. Who was simply RUDE And ill mannered .. and you know me all i said was “That you can take yourself and your kid out of my house”.. good bye

    I would have loved to see his face 🙂

    this was when i had visited home a couple of years ago, needless to say we are not friends anymore .. This kid wanted my phone, my car keys , anything i had , he even went and opened my suitcase .. HOW RUDE is that ..

    Dear me! So many parents think that behaviour like that is adorable. Sigh!

  4. I cant believe kids these days are so rude… my hubby’s teamate has a son of about 10 years and it seems he calls his parents by their name 😦
    God knows where this generation is heading ?

    • Its not the whole generation. I know some lovely, beautifully behaved children. But there are also children who just do not know how to behave, and it’s a shame.

  5. Smitha, I think more than NRI or native, it is a matter of how they are brought up. If you have parents who think you have to be aggressive to get ahead, is it any wonder their kids behave the same?

    Absolutely! Couldn’t agree more. And the bad(or good) behaviour is entirely based on how they are brought up.

    I have also seen one parent being strict and the other indulgent and no guesses who the child will take after. Son goes to a school where the kids are ‘supposed ‘ to have an attitude and one of our so called friends told me she didn’t send her kids there because she didn’t want them to be affected. And when I met them…honestly I am yet to see kids with more attitude!

    Seriously! Sometimes you don’t know how people can live in oblivion!

    The line between being assertive and rude is very fine. We tell our kids to ignore first, forgive next and give it back if nothing else works:D

    I haven’t started her on the ‘giving it back’ yet, but I suppose it will come to that if she is targeted too many times..Lets see. Fingers crossed.

    And if they misbehave in public….by now they know what is in store for them back home 😉
    That is true here as well 🙂

  6. Smitha, I am seeing a lot of groupisms here to in Chennai, during recent times !!! Kids are quite snobbish in the way they treat others. I really dont understand whether its the school or the parents….

    I suspect it is the combination of both.

    But changing my daughter’s school has brought a dramatic change in her way in which she deals with this groupism. While she used to change herself to fit into that group before (no child likes to be alone), now she has learnt to stand up for the good things she has learnt. I am glad now.

    I can totally imagine. That is such an important lesson that she has learnt -not to change herself to fit in. I just hope I am able to instill that confidence in daughter.

    I think its a learning process for both the children and us…and we should teach them to over come the bullies and groupist thinking !!!

    Absolutely. That is so important.

    Why Smitha, as an adult, I face such ignoring groupisms here !! What to say !!!

    You are so right! And despite being old enough to know better, there are still instances where I get affected by all this too.. And these are just children.

  7. yes so be it.. I am with you Smitha totally.. whenever Adi tells me about incidents where her classmates were not being fair I always tell her to ignore them and look for someone else to play with.. If it really bothers her then asked her to talk to her teacher. Being smart or bullying back is not the way. I tell her that “what they are doing is bad and their parents have to correct them or teacher has to contact their parents if it goes out of control”…

  8. Oh this groupsim is the bane of our existence here too. It’s unbelievable how such young kids get into this thing of ‘You can’t play with us’. It’s tough to get the kids to understand. They feel so hurt.. Fitting in is already important to them.

    • I know! Playground politics seems to have started really early! And sadly it affects the ones that get targeted, while the so called leaders develop massive egos.. All this under 10 – it scares me!

  9. Good that u walked up to them and glad they understood and started playing well too Smiths 🙂

    I’m glad I did too, because they did seem to understand that what they were doing is wrong. Hopefully they will think twice before doing it again – hopefully.

    I also hate it when kids talk like adults and the parents think they are very mature too 🙄

    I think that is because of the influence of movies, where precocious children are shown mouthing some very grown up stuff. I haven’t watched too many movies, but I remember that child in Cheenikum -I found her unbearable. And yet, so many people found her cute..I’m not even getting into the effect of such movies on the children who act in them here.

  10. There was this time when my cousin’s daughter came home with a joke to tell everyone. She was in the seventh class then, and a boy in her class apparently wore diapers everyday. On this particular day she told us that she had coined a name for him – ‘diaper baby’. The whole class started calling him that and the boy began to cry. There was no remorse whatsoever when she narrated this and her parents looked on with faint pride on their daughter’s speaking skills.

    It disturbed me a lot, but I did not have the courage to say anything to family – to risk spoiling a relationship with cousins. I now do wish I had spoken up and explained to the girl that what she had done was wrong. You were so right in going up to those children. Someone has to.

    This is one aspect of children’s behaviour that I just do not understand.

    • The girl behaves like that because she’s never been told that it is wrong. Clearly her parents think that she’s some sort of a hero to behave like that. Its so sad that parents themselves don’t realize that their children are being so incredibly cruel.

  11. I do not have any friends from school days because I could not fit into any of the groups. And till date, the problem continues. I find myself odd but not alone for I know how to keep company with few people, books, blogs, music etc. Years later, I told my mom – you should have taught me to give it back straight on their faces. However, she strongly disagrees and is proud of me how I am today.

    I think your mum has a point..

    It is a common practice in Indian schools and most parents find it a matter of pride to flaunt their kid’s bonding habits. While it is accepted that social skills are much needed, not to the extent where the child grows up insecure without a group and loads crazy amounts of ego within. At 22, I knew of girls who will not go to the loo alone in a girls college. They had to have their friends along everywhere!

    That is outrageous! So silly!

    Talking of behaviour, I think the problem lies with the society’s notions and definitions of a smart child than the parents or the child itself.

    Yes, society for sure, but as parents we can make a difference if we chose to bring up our children differently.

    Very thought provoking post, Smitha.

  12. I have to repeat the statement that hubby tells me all along…It’s all about how you bring them up, no matter where they belong to. Kids learn from their elders/parents. It’s about what kind of example you set for them….what you teach them.

  13. Bullying is a huge problem everywhere and I think it is the parents’ reaction to this that either encourages or corrects the child’s behavior.
    Also, I don’t think NRI kids are any more badly behaved that the present crop of kids in India today…they are absolutely spoilt!!

    • I agree, Roshni. It is the parents attitude that will truly make a difference.

      As for NRI kids vrs Indian kids, I could never understand how people make these generalizations..

  14. Bullying is the one thing that I still have trouble with professionally. So many kids with mental health issues have had histories of being bullied. Cruel, malicious bullying. I fail to understand what perverse pleasure some people get in bullying others. I still remember a personal experience when I was in UKG in India. I wanted to be friends with a group of girls at school in Bombay but the only way I was allowed to be their friend was if I tore up another girl’s alphabet book. Which I did. And got into trouble for from the teacher (hit on the hand with a wooden ruler). We we 4 years old at the time.

    I’m glad you confronted those kids Smita. And teach your darling daughter to be resilient. Because god knows what the parents of bullies do…they seem to constantly make excuses for their behaviours.

    • I don’t understand either. But it seems so common. And I think to a large extent, the parents either encourage or ignore, which kind of sanctions such behavior.

  15. I must thank you for this post really… My son is kinda quiet sensitive and many times when I watch him play with other kids I find that he is not as rough or tough sometimes… not that he should be that… I try my level best to not intervene too much, most of the times the kids dont get into tangles, they all are quite busy playing cricket but yea from time to time they have a problem that someone is cheating and he was out… at times it has happened that he comes home crying that they are cheating and I was not out and they all got on one side… types… I always tell him crying is not the solution and that he must reason if he is right and if he is wrong he must learn to take it in his stride…

    I & my wife also are quite weary of letting him go to other places to play we tend to prefer to have his friends over or him playing in the nearby vicinity… he has started to want to go away and we still shudder of allowing him to go alone on the roads and stuff.. gee…

    Luckily almost all his school friends are pretty sober as well and kinda mild… plus I guess being a teacher’s son probably not many bully you 😛

    • It so tough, isn’t it? To know.when to intervene, and when to hold back. I think I found it easier to intervene this time because it wasn’t my own child. Because that way, I’m an impartial observer…

  16. Beautiful post, Smitha. So true! Even I have seen this among children – parents not being able to distinguish between their child being assertive and being a bully. 😦 I am glad you walked up to those kids and made yourself heard.

    In fact, I have seen these traits among adults too. People just don’t get it that there is a difference between being worldly wise and being exploitative of others and being dishonest. Check out this post:

  17. Long time reader, first time commenter. Loved this post! It really touched a chord with me. My daughter is also gentle and timid and I am proud to say that, at 2 years 4months old, quite well behaved. What bothers me is that some people make me feel as if my daughter’s gentle nature and good behaviour are because she is too scared and dumb and somehow not smart and gutsy enough to grab what she wants. Sigh. Hugs to your daughter. Mine is not yet old enough to have faced the play ground politics but I have observed it many times and dread the day she will be old enough to be the target.

  18. Bang on, Smitha!!! I think this is what I get most angry about: ‘The saddest part was that their mothers were right there, and nobody bothered to stop that child’. My friend was mentioning the other day, about a child who kept abusing her daughter in the park, and when she told her off, the girl’s aunt/mum barged in and fought tooth and nail!! Ridiculous, no? When your child is wrong, he/she is wrong, and all you have to do is set a good example!! Bah!

    • ‘when she told her off, the girl’s aunt/mum barged in and fought tooth and nail!! ‘ – I can so imagine that happening 😦 That is really the saddest part, that some people refuse to accept that their child might not the the perfect child they believe he/she is 😦

  19. I believe that majority of this amounts to upbringing. Read a recent article that these days parents need to seriously invest in developing their children, most importantly by behaving themselves. I have noticed that more is preached than practised. It takes effort.

  20. Pingback: Constant Learning, Ordinary Teachings « A drop in the ocean

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