How to Respond Correctly When Children Speak Back

One day a friend of mine burst into a tirade about not raising a disrespectful child. “It just isn’t happening,” she said. “He won’t answer. Respect is too important to me, and I will not tolerate its rudeness. ” Her son was about a year old at the time. Mine was several years older. So I laughed.

“Yes, that sounds great,” I told her. “If you reveal a secret, pass it on to me, okay?”

What she hadn’t experienced yet was a very real dilemma between 1) wanting to establish a law because I WILL NOT be raising a child who talks to me like that, and 2) wanting to model a better way to communicate because they are more likely to be do as we do, not do as we say.

Children, they answer. And from the point of view of development, they should . Parenting coach Megan Leahy writes for the Washington Post that when conversations escalate, it could mean the child is ready for more independence and control.

It seems that overnight your child is ready to go alone to a friend’s house, organize their homework, choose their clothes, and give their opinion on food. While this may sound daunting, it is best to view your child’s opinion and resistance as an invitation to change, rather than just outright misconduct. It is helpful to think of reverse conversation as a form of communication that needs to be better understood.

However, it is annoying at best and infuriating at worst. Fortunately, there is something we can do to minimize mistrust and escalate the situation.

Loosen the reins

Children are supervised all day long. From their morning routine to school hours, folding their shoes, doing their homework and feeding their dog, they are constantly being helped. So when we tell them it’s time to go upstairs and take a shower, they give out a loud chuckle! and stomp up the stairs, shouting: “I am. Hate. Taking. SHOWER! Souls. Are. So. DUMMY! “We shouldn’t be completely surprised.

Just as we try to give our little ones a choice to avoid tantrums (do you want to wear an orange shirt or a purple shirt today, honey?), We can find ways for our older children to make decisions and take some control over them. Everyday life. Do you want to shower tonight or tomorrow morning? Do you want a snack before or after homework? The less we choke and dictate, the more they relax.

Choose your battles

Not all conversations are the same, so draw lines in the sand. What can you live with and what is really unacceptable? Rachel Simmons, author of The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Real Girls with Courage and Confidence , gives the New York Times this advice:

“Decide when to let something slip away — a short note, shrug, or roll your eyes — and when to fight back,” Ms. Simmons said. Retreat should occur when something goes against the moral values ​​of the home, such as insulting a parent’s appearance or refusing to do housework.

I was once the queen of eye-rolling, but my parents didn’t seem to care much. In fact, they found it a little hilarious, and nothing kills a good eye-roll like your parents enjoying it. Shrug off the little things, but be prepared to (calmly) stand your ground on the bigger ones.

Stay unimpressed

This is my favorite piece of advice from Amy McCready, founder of Positive Parenting Solutions : “While your kids are putting on a Tony Award-winning drama, your job is not to impress the visitor.”

McCready speaks my language here. This is where we can truly model for them how to respond to conflict: be calm, firm, and kind.

Just say, “The way you talk to me hurts me. When I hear this tone of voice, I leave. We can talk again when you can talk to me respectfully. ” Then go away.

The next time this happens, you don’t even need to be warned – just leave the room. You send a message that you refuse to participate in the power struggle. And when there is no one to fight, there is no fight!

If you are struggling with this at the moment, try channeling your innerMichelle Obama . When they go down, we go up. When they answer, we remain calm.


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