Contributed by Melanie Miller, M.Ed., Certified Positive Discipline Trainer and School Counselor
Back talk, eye rolling, the glare, the, “Oh mom how can you be so stupid look”…. As our children grow older, their vocabulary has grown and their words, attitude and eye rolling can dig a little deeper. The next time the disrespect comes your way consider this…
Why Kids do it:
• Maintain dignity: think they have been treated unfairly and “need” to defend themselves,
• Claiming and testing their power (who am I really?),
• Don’t know how to respectfully disagree,
• To connect with you,
• Or, perhaps they simply have had a bad day.
What you can do in the Moment:
Name your feelings: “Ouch, those words hurt.” “I’ll leave and then come back when we can both be respectful.”
Take a break: Recognize your own feelings. If they are coming on strong take a break. Go for a walk, take a shower, and call a friend. Allow your child the time to take a break too.
Ask with curiosity: When the behavior baffles you, ask “what and how” questions instead of telling. “What do you need to do before you go out with your friends?”
Be willing to accept your part in the conflict: If you have made some mistakes, be willing to repair those mistakes and make amends. Acknowledge your mistake (apologize) and make a commitment to change your behavior.
Agree to disagree: As long as your child’s behavior is not life threatening, immoral or illegal, allow them to make some developmentally appropriate decisions that rub you wrong… and let them know that the two of you can “agree to disagree” on this current issue.
Long Term Solutions:
Recognize the power struggle: When engaged in a power struggle, someone wins and someone loses…teens do not want to lose to their parents…and parents don’t want to lose “the upper hand.” Give yourself and your child the dignity to step out of the struggle. “We will need to talk about this later.”
Check your own tone of voice: When irritated and annoyed, are you modeling respectful body language and tone of voice? Or, do you demand, use sarcasm and maybe a bit of your own eye rolling? Take the high road. Stay calm.
Create routines: …and let the routines be the boss. Instead of giving orders, use family meetings to create mutually respectful routines for chores, getting ready for school and homework.
Look behind the behavior: Backtalk may tell you that something is amiss. Could it be that something hurtful happened to your child at school? Are they feeling a loss of connection with you as they gather more independence, but still need your support? Use understanding and encouragement. Give verbal and non-verbal messages that you are on their side and willing to work with them, not against them.
Move from punishment towards solutions: Ah, that is a topic in itself… more next week.
Based on the work of Positive Discipline; A-Z, Jane Nelsen, Ed.D et.al.
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