Friday, September 4, 2009

Be Nice!

I remember very clearly my brother saying, "be nice!" to his toddler son years ago. He was playing with my toddler sons, and I haven't a clue what triggered the exhortation. I think about being nice a lot. The trick is figuring out when to be nice, and when you really should not be nice.

Do you question that there are those times?

As a parent, there are many times when you need to be kind, but firm. There is a kindness to nice for sure, but nice also implies pleasantness and friendliness. A screaming, kicking toddler isn't pleasant or friendly, and the firmness required will not be perceived as pleasant nor friendly to the little darling.

The adult world also has many situations which make being nice untenable. Outrage, indignation, and forceful objections to injustice are often appropriate, and almost never nice. Abuses of power, deceptions, and foul play cannot be addressed nicely.

Nastiness and sarcasm don't usually help when you encounter unniceness. But speaking rationally, politely, and to the point, which is usually helpful, does not always make it pleasant enough to be called nice.


Kate said...

I actually avoid the word nice. Mostly because I can't get past the fact that it was once almost a sort of pejorative that meant something comparable to 'prissy'! But also because I think 'nice' is imprecise and that it is more to the point to teach my children to be kind, loving, honest, etc.

Also - I reflected once on how few defenses a child has when they have been taught that the cardinal virtue is 'niceness'. As you say, objecting to injustice never sounds 'nice'. If someone does or says something to my boys to make them nervous or uncomfortable, I would rather they say so, even at the risk of sounding 'not-nice'!

Lisa said...

In my writing classes, I often ban the use of the word--along with good, big, pretty, etc.

I've gotten myself into some situations recently that were not "nice" and have had to scramble to figure out how to defuse the heat but also not back down on the critical point. That is the skill we want to pass on: be polite, respectful, and firm--but stay on track.