Ending Back Talk and Bad Attitudes

Ending Back Talk and Bad Attitudes

Parents across the country increasingly are describing the same problem—kids who argue, roll their eyes, complain, and even refuse to do what their parents ask! One mother commented, “Every time I say something to my thirteen-year-old, she gets snippy and says, “Whatever!”

There’s good news! The following four commonsense tips for raising respectful kids are time-tested and powerful:

Tip #1: When your child gets mouthy, go “brain dead.”

Don’t think too hard about the nasty things your kids say. The more you think, the more likely your face will turn red, and the more likely you’ll get pulled into a losing argument.

Tip #2: Become a loving “broken record.”

Rather than letting the arguing get to you, go “brain dead.” Calmly repeat just one of the following phrases over and over, regardless of what your child says:

  • “I love you too much to argue.”
  • “I’ll listen when your voice is calm like mine.”
  • “I know.”
  • “What did I say?”

Tip #3: Replace anger with empathy.

There is nothing more exciting to an argumentative, defiant child than seeing their parents’ faces turn red. Pick the Love and Logic “one-liner” that works best for you. You will want to practice using it in advance to make sure that you say it with empathy, not sarcasm.

Sometimes this can be hard, so practicing is important.

  • “Love ya too much to argue.”
  • “How sad.”
  • “Thanks for sharing.”
  • “That’s an option.”

Tip #4: Sidestep losing power struggles by delaying consequences.

What’s a parent to do if their child downright refuses to do what they ask? Don’t believe the very common myth that kids always need immediate consequences. Buy yourself some time by saying,

“I’m going to do something about this—but not now, later. Try not to worry.”

Tip #5: Go on strike and negotiate for better parental working conditions.

There are many extra things we do for our kids every day. Does it make sense that a healthy parent would do all of these extra things when their child is treating them like a doormat? Some parents have decided that enough is enough and will quietly stop washing clothes, buying snacks, making nice meals, driving their kids to friends’ houses, etc. When their kids complain, these parents calmly say,

“I love you a great deal, and I’ll be happy to do the extra things I do for you when I feel treated with respect. If you aren’t sure how to treat me with respect, pay close attention to how I treat you.”

For over forty years, parents all over this great country have changed their lives with these practical Love and Logic tips. A dad I know cured his son’s acidic attitude by having a major parental power outage. Every time his son wanted something extra (like picking up a pizza, needing a ride, etc.), he’d respond empathetically, “This is sad. I’ll be happy to start doing those sorts of things for you when I feel treated with respect.”  It wasn’t very long before his boy learned that being nasty just doesn’t pay.

We hope that these tips help during these challenging times.


Thank you for reading!

Dr. Charles Fay

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