Skip the sass

A sassy attitude can start slowly and then quickly snowball into full-blown brattiness. Here’s how to curb your child’s backtalk.

It can start with just a hint of a disrespectful tone that catches you off guard, but that glimpse of attitude can spiral out of control into a sassy, backtalking problem almost overnight.

We’re battling the backtalk at our house, and I’m not sure when it began, but it truly exasperates me.

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Why kids talk back

Children sass for any number of reasons, whether they are feeling powerless, unheard by us or unimportant to us. They could also be mimicking the behavior they’ve seen their peers exhibit with effective results.

So, if we know we can’t handle the sass any longer, and we know our children are resorting to backtalk because their other means of communication failed, how should parents respond to the backtalk?

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What parents can do

Dr. Michele Borba, renowned parenting expert and author of Don’t Give Me That Attitude!: 24 Rude, Selfish, Insensitive Things Kids Do and How to Stop Them has some helpful advice on how to curb the sass:

  • Treat children respectfully so they feel respected and are therefore more likely to treat others respectfully.
  • Tune up your child’s social graces and make courtesy a priority in your home. Eating dinner regularly as a family is one of the easiest ways to teach children table manners, courtesy and conversation skills.
  • Do not tolerate any form of backtalk or rudeness. “Nipping in the bud” is always the most successful method of stopping any behavior from becoming a habit. Stop it before it spreads.
  • Take time to tell and show your kids how to be respectful. Never assume they have that knowledge.
  • Explain your standards and expectations to other adults — teachers, daycare staff, babysitters, coaches and relatives — in your child’s life. If you work together on enhancing courtesy and respect, you’ll likely be successful.
  • Make sure your child is surrounded by people — grown-ups as well as kids — who model respectful, courteous behaviors, so what they’re watching is what you really want her to “catch.”

One more tip from Borba

Monitor your child’s media consumption closely. Supervise Internet, movie, video game and television viewing, allowing only what you feel is appropriate for your child to watch. Be aware of possible crude and vulgar content on recorded music: Read and honor “parental advisory” labels.

Curb it now

Once we acknowledge the sass and backtalk are symptomatic of a deeper issue and have become a learned behavior, we can begin to employ Borba’s techniques to foster an open dialogue and mutual respect with our children, which are great steps in the right direction.

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