Put Back Talk Behind You
You tell your child to clean his room or practice her piano, and here's what you get: hands on hips, eyes flashing, and a muttered, "Oh, Mom, give it a rest!" Sometimes you face rolling eyes, deep sighs, and looks of utter disgust, too.
Children disrespecting parents is a worsening problem, says William Coleman, M.D., spokesperson from the pediatric division of Development and Learning at the University of North Carolina. He believes the media play a role.
"In TV sitcoms, parents are made to look like buffoons," he says. "Even young kids mouth off and get what they want, and youngsters come to believe that this behavior is OK. To counteract this, parents need to be very clear on what they will and won't tolerate."
Because our lives are so hectic, he adds, kids may have short tempers and little tolerance for frustration or parents' demands. At other times, back talk, sassy responses, or pointless power struggles may be tied to a stage of growth as kids test their autonomy.
At times, you should let children show their displeasure at your requests or rules. But they must learn that some words, tones, or facial expressions are not proper means of communication. Make it clear that consequences will result if they keep it up. First tell them firmly but lovingly that the behavior is unacceptable. If that doesn’t work, a time-out, extra chores, or the loss of a privilege may lie ahead.
"If your youngster is being sassy," says Dr. Coleman, "you might consider the possibility that your own behavior is contributing in some way. Perhaps you've stopped complimenting your child or have been comparing him or her unfavorably to an older sibling. Unexpressed hurt feelings can lead to hostile, sarcastic, and negative interactions."
Mom and Dad must also watch how they treat each other. If kids see one parent being sharp, critical, or dismissive to the other, they learn this type of conduct is OK.
How can you replace those snappy, annoying comments with healthy, positive communication? Here are five tips:
Have a clear set of dos and don'ts, and the consequences that follow.
Treat all family members with warmth and respect.
Let children have some input in family decisions.
Give lots of positive feedback.
Have fun together.