It seems to be that there comes a time in every childâ€™s life when they transition from a cute and loving child, to a snarky and sassy tween or teen.Â In this phase, kids go from good-natured to short-tempered, accommodating to resisting, happy to hold your hand to embarrassed to even be seen with you.
Let the eye-rolling begin.
Some parents roll with this change with remarkable good humour and grace; the rest of us may end up resorting to less-than-helpful responses to our kids.Â If you think you may fall into that second category, here are five tips for getting your relationship back onto a better path.
1. Take a deep breath and donâ€™t take it personally.Â
Yes, itâ€™s true that sometimes our kids can find just the right thing to say to cut us to the quick.Â But theyâ€™re not necessarily trying to wound us that deeply, theyâ€™re often just trying out different ways of relating to others and seeing which ones give them a feeling of control and confidence.Â Itâ€™s ok to respond calmly with something like, â€śThat was very disrespectful.Â I donâ€™t like being spoken to that way, and Iâ€™m going to leave the room until we can agree that weâ€™ll speak to each other more pleasantly.â€ť
2. Harness the power of role modelling.Â
As much as parents like to joke about the â€śdo as I say, not as I doâ€ť method of parenting, children donâ€™t tend to see the humour in it.Â While thereâ€™s no doubt they can quite effectively push our buttons, a part of them is watching us to see how weâ€™ll handle it.Â Our kids look to us to learn how to behave in the world, and if we respond to them with anger, or an attempt at control by trying to put them in their place, then they learn that this is an effective way of responding to someone who is upsetting them.Â While it might not seem like it in the moment, continuing to model respectful behavior towards our kids (and ourselves) does give them a blueprint for how to stand up for themselves appropriately and how to navigate difficult conversations.
3. Take a time out.Â
We often get into the habit of believing that every parenting issue must be dealt with immediately.Â But the reality is that sometimes we all need space to cool down, before we can get a real handle on the situation and think about the big picture.Â Itâ€™s ok to tell your children, â€śWeâ€™ll talk about this later,â€ť and then follow through and do it.
4. Catch them being good.Â
You may have heard this phrase before; itâ€™s something of a staple in parenting.Â If we catch more flies with honey, than we want to be on the look-out for opportunities to acknowledge and appreciate those times when our kids express themselves assertively while still being respectful.Â They donâ€™t have to be talking to you; if you happen to overhear a conversation between two of your children, or one of your kids and a friend, itâ€™s ok to pull your child aside later and quietly let them know that you thought she handled herself very well in that difficult situation.
5. Keep a healthy perspective.
While you may worry that the attitude demonstrated at home may be transported out there into the world at large, you can breathe easy knowing that it typically isnâ€™t the case.Â Kids generally reserve their worst behavior for family (lucky us), and they have a pretty good idea of what would and wouldnâ€™t be considered acceptable with friends and other adults.
These little moments may not be the best part of parenting, but hang in there.Â Keep in mind that a strong relationship is your best insurance against the dismissive and disrespectful attitude from our children, so donâ€™t lose touch with them.Â Find opportunities to chat and share, create little moments of connection, and soon the scales will start to tip in the other direction.