People will treat you how you let them. I know you've heard this before, but let's talk about how to apply it.
This pertains to strangers, friends, family, co-workers, spouses, and... your kids too.
I learned a long time ago how to set this kind of boundary. When I was fresh out of college, I was hired as a claims analyst for a company that wrote bonds for construction companies. I was taught to write letters to the claimant and the contractor. We wrote demanding letters to the contractor telling them to resolve the claim and another letter to the claimant with an instant denial (The policy was later changed). Thank goodness.
These letters resulted in very angry phone calls. Before I even said a word, there was a screaming and insulting rant in my ear. I would wait until they finished. Then say-may I speak? Often, they would calm down. But, sometimes the insults and screaming would continue. In that case, I would say-I would like to have a conversation with you. When you can speak in a reasonable manner, please call back.
The thing was that I wasn't getting paid enough to deal with abuse. In fact, there is probably no amount of money that would make it okay. I am thankful for that job because it taught me early not to let people treat me in an unreasonable or unkind way.
Then came the day when my child said something that was unkind, unacceptable. And do you know what I said? I bet you can guess.
I bent down to his eye level, made him meet my gaze and said- I do not allow anyone to talk to me like that. Not your dad (not that he ever would), not my friends, not strangers, not even my bosses. And I will not allow you to talk to me like that either. Go to your room and when you can speak in a reasonable, kind manner, I will be happy to have a conversation with you.
I set a boundary and it wasn't personal to him just because he's my child. We are creeping up on the teen years and I'm certain this boundary will be crossed again. But, I won't engage. I won't respond with my own fire, my own unkind loud words. As long as my hormones are cooperating.
The key is to know where the line is and know how to draw it.
How do you respond to unkindness?