The Day I Was Called Out by a Six-Year-Old for Being a Jerk

We’ve all heard of the Golden Rule, right? That whole “do unto others” thing? The concept of treating people the same as we want to be treated is not new.

Odds are good that some version of the Golden Rule was drilled into you by your parents, grandparents, Sunday school teachers, coaches . . . you get the idea. Odds are also good that you’ve probably paid this forward and are instilling this value into your own children.

Treat someone like you want them to treat you. Just be nice.

That’s good life advice, right? Straight to the point and not overly complicated. Easy to understand but sometimes hard to follow . . . or is that just me?


I begin every day with the goal of not being a jerk to the other humans that cross my path: my family, the people at my kids’ school, even the person in front of me in the self-checkout line who has no business whatsoever (ever, ever) using self-checkout.

At the end of every day, I do a mental rewind and reflect on what I did and how I did it. I might have very few days where I knock everything off my to-do list like I’d planned to do at the start of the day—now that’s a great feeling—but the days where I experience the highest level of self-satisfaction are the days when I was nice. Sounds so simple, huh?

It’s always easier said than done and, despite my best intentions, I’m short-tempered and impatient. Not letting that bite creep into my voice and resisting the urge to sigh and eye roll are hard for me, man. But still, I try. Because I believe in the Golden Rule, no matter how difficult it is for me to live it. When the sun rises on a new day, I wipe the slate clean, down my coffee like a boss and give a double thumbs up to the woman in the mirror.

“You will be awesome today.”

Sometimes, that works. Sometimes not.

I’m pretty self-aware, and I’m the first one to beat myself up when I slide to the wrong side of nice. But last week, I was called out by my six-year-old. I found myself on the receiving end of what can only be described as a lecture.

Have you ever been called out by a six-year-old? It’s humbling.

My family and I recently spent a week at Universal Studios, Florida, and as exciting and magical as our visit was, I found five straight days of family fun and togetherness to have a pretty short shelf life. My family was treated to glimmers of snappy and cranky early on in the vacation, but by day five, full-on Catty McCatterson had showed up ready to thrown down.

As I lined my kids up for an obligatory photo in front of the entrance sign to the park, another little boy close in age to my two six-year-olds photobombed us. He wasn’t trying to get in our picture. He wasn’t trying to be obnoxious or even bothersome. He was just a kid looking at a sign that he found interesting and, like a typical kid, he was oblivious to the weary grownup with the thin smile holding the camera.

I waited in a way that I hoped appeared patient, even though I was using my mental mojo to will this kid to find his way out of my shot. I looked in the direction of his mom who issued a half-hearted “c’mon” as she wrestled with her backpack, stroller, and other kids. After what was probably a full 30 seconds with this little boy still in our photo, and an impatient husband looking at his watch and probably wondering why I had to have so many pictures in the first place, I asked the little boy to please move, in what I thought was a polite way. He skipped off to join his family, I took the picture of my kids, and we were back in business.

“Mommy, I want you to promise me something.”

My son tugged on my hand as we made our way through the crowds to find a good spot to watch the character parade.

“What’s that, sweetie?” I asked tiredly, sure he was going to ask for another churro or a $50 Harry Potter wand.

“I just want you to be nice.”

This got my attention.

“That boy back there. You weren’t nice to him,” continued my son. “You had a mean voice and mean eyes when you told him to move.”

I realized what he was talking about and was immediately defensive. “I was nice. I just asked him to move so he wouldn’t be in our picture. His mom wouldn’t have liked it if he was in our picture because we don’t know him.”

“You weren’t nice,” said my son resolutely. “You should try treating people like you want to be treated.”

I was pretty much speechless at this point.

“Mr. Meyers says we should treat people like we want to be treated.”

Mr. Meyers is my kids’ martial arts teacher.

“You wouldn’t like someone to talk mean to you. You talked mean to that boy but I know you can do better,” he kindly patted my hand. “I want you to promise me you’ll try to do better.”

I nodded my head. “Sure buddy. I will try.”

I mean . . . that was the only acceptable response, right?

When I replayed the events of the day in my mind before I went to sleep that night, I didn’t recall my manner of address to the little photo-bomber to be unduly harsh.

But things looked different through my son’s eyes.

I was happy he’d taken notice of my preaching enough to practice it and apply it, but more than a little ashamed that I got called out by a six-year-old for failing to walk my talk. It made me think. It’s made me more mindful of the view of myself I give to the world and, more importantly than that, to my kids.

I’m not going to blow sunshine and unicorn farts or vow to be exactly like Mary Poppins from this day forward. I know full well that I’ll have my days when “Cruella” is the most accurate way to describe my behavior. But I will try to do better because my kids inspire me to do better. They make me want to be better and, clearly, I needed that reminder.

That whole do unto others thing? Do it. Live it. Practice it.

They are watching and taking their cues from you, mamas.

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One Response to The Day I Was Called Out by a Six-Year-Old for Being a Jerk

  1. Nancy September 25, 2016 at 11:06 pm #

    This is such a great reminder – wonderful post. You must be doing something so amazingly right that #1, your son knows well about treating people the way he wants to be treated, #2, at the age of 6, he can WAIT to speak with you privately about a concern that he has…and not call you out immediately, and #3, he has the confidence to speak to you in a way that might considered critical of an adult – usually a no-no, especially from rule following, super aware kids. He sounds like someone that is aware beyond their years. Great job, mom! Way to keep the lines of communication open…Cruella can live to fight another day, perhaps.