There is nothing worse than having to deal with kids being fresh. When we ask our kids to get into the car, come to the dinner table, or sweep the floor we don’t want to hear:
“You’re not the boss of me”
“You can’t make me!”
“No way! You’re the meanest Mommy!”
This can make us so angry and frustrated. It is tough to hear your child being fresh, after all you do for them. Back talk, usually comes just when we are least able to hear it, when we are late for school or work, when dinner is burning and when we just had a rough phone call with our boss. We often respond to back talk in kind:
“Don’t you dare talk to me that way!”
“If you talk to me that way again you are losing TV time!”
This just leads us straight into a power struggle with our children.
So what can we do to stop the rude behavior? Here are 9 phrases or responses that can help us avoid that downward spiral into anger and teach your kids to improve their behavior:
1. “Excuse me..”: Saying this gently and firmly can let your child know that they have crossed the line in a neutral and non-confrontational way.
2. “You sound upset and angry..”: Responding to a child’s back talk with empathy is probably the most effective tactic you can use. It is called a countermove, you don’t respond with anger to anger. Kids feel less threatened and it is a great way to diffuse potential power struggles.
3. “Let’s try again…”: This is another simple and gentle way to let your child know that they are behaving badly, but that you have faith in them that they can behave better and be more respectful. Using the word, “Let’s” is modeling respect. It shows them that you are on the same team. The underlying message is, “we can work through this and stay calm together…”
4. “Wrong answer…”: This is a more neutral response, that I generally use when I ask my kids to help out and they tell me “no”. This is best to use when you and your kids are just slightly annoyed and not completely and totally frustrated with each other.
5. Take a deep exaggerated yoga breath.. : Taking a deep breath physiologically helps you calm down. It gives you a minute to take stock of the situation and hopefully realize that you don’t need to respond in anger. Because I do this so often, it is a sign for my kids that I am upset and a hint that they should start toeing the line. Sometimes I don’t even need to say anything else.
6. “Can you say that respectfully?”: This can only be said when you are calm. It is a gentle way to let your child know that they are being fresh. The underlying message is one of faith, “I know you can improve your behavior and be respectful…”
7. “I think we all need a break now…”: When both you and your child are in the “red zone”, mad and totally overwhelmed, this is probably your best response (along with #2, you sound really angry and upset.) Warning: Sometimes kids are so wired or frustrated that they might need your physical presence, they need a way to vent and they might have a hard time separating from you. If that’s the case, you can say, “We are both pretty angry right now, let’s find a place where we can sit together and just calm down!”
8. “I know you know how to speak respectfully…”: This is similar to no. 6. It is a gentle admonishment, you are really saying, “You are being completely disrespectful and I know you can turn this behavior around.”
9. Raising your eyebrows: This is the quietest way to still the storm of back talk. This is best used when you and your child are just mildly annoyed with each other.
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