What To Do When Kids Push Back With Sass and Disrespect

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Diane: So, in this next tip, we're going to talk about pushback. This is a question we've gotten from a lot of parents.

Diane: Defiance.

Elaine: Combative behavior.

Diane: Sassiness -- I call it snarkiness at my house.

Elaine: Yeah, we get a little snarky.

Diane: And so it's a real common challenge. And the thing that we want to focus in on is getting really curious about what's going on underneath it.

So it's easy to kind of go, "Well, I just have kids being rude, he's being disrespectful, that behavior's not acceptable," and kind of focus on that. And it's normal because it does feel, in some instances, even painful because our kids are saying things that are just really unkind and hurtful. And other places, it's like, "Whoa, wait. I need this to stop."

But we want you to kind of stay first in that place of, "What's really going on for my kid that's making it hard for them to communicate respectfully" as opposed to  --

Elaine: "Man, this kid's just being obnoxious!"

Diane: Exactly.

Elaine: So the thing is to look at what's behind the behavior. Any behavior that our kids are exhibiting, there's always going to be something behind it. Some reason, some motivation, some fear -- whatever it is. And a lot of times, our kids are stimulation-seeking, right? They're seeking input. Sometimes they're looking for the battle so that they can get some engagement.

Diane: And we don't mean to say it like they're doing it on purpose --

Elaine: No!

Diane: Because it may be that their brain is seeking stimulation. And I've been in relationships where you would have an argument for absolutely no reason at all. And it's really just the brain wanting to work itself up a little bit.

Elaine: Right, and the example I often use is, you know, the adult with ADHD who picks the fight before he can go to sleep at night. And then he's fine and he goes right to sleep, and his wife's up all night going, "Why'd we have this fight?" So stimulation-seeking behavior is pretty typical. Understanding it doesn't make it okay, it doesn't make it acceptable. But if you understand where the behavior's coming from, you can begin to shift the dynamic and address it and take aim on it.

Diane: The other piece of it might be avoidance, right? So it's like, if I'm pushing back, if I'm fine, if I'm arguing with you, if I'm talking back, it may be either I'm trying to get used to what you say; or it's a transition issue because it's like, "I was thinking this and you were thinking that." The point is, don't jump to, "I've got a rude kid."

Elaine: "And I've got to stop it."

Diane: "And I've got to stop it." Go back and say, "What's really going on with my kid that's making it difficult for them to communicate respectfully?" And I love that spin because that's really what your challenge is -- is to help them communicate in a different way.

Elaine: And so the strategies we would offer here first is to just let them be heard. Like if they're upset or frustrated or angry, acknowledge that that is a real feeling, right? We teach A.C.E.. Start with acknowledgement. Let them get it out, let them express themselves and have some compassion for where they're coming from.

Diane: If somebody tells you something that you don't want to hear, you're going to go, "Errrrrrr." You might just make that face and not say anything out loud because you have a different kind of filter than a ten-year-old who's --

Elaine: -- who's snarky.

Diane: But take that minute. Show compassion, acknowledge --

Elaine: "It's really hard for you right now. It sounds like you're feeling upset right now." Whatever it is, to sort of really meet them where they are.

Diane: Yep. And then explore. So, "What is it that's really bugging you in this situation? How can you get what you want and I get what I want?" You know, just have a conversation rather than getting focused on shutting it down --

Both: Or stopping the behavior.

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