Category Archives: Dealing With Back Talk

Creative Consequences for Teen Behavior: More Independence

Well, you can bet that when I don’t write for over a week that I must have a pretty good excuse. And I sure wish it was a glamorous one like “I was at the Grammys” or “I got invited to the White House”.  It’s not even a dramatic reason like, “I was in the hospital all week.” Nope, usually when you don’t hear from me it’s because I’m wiped out from dealing with kid problems, and that is a mild way to describe what we’ve been going through.

I can never usually write about things in as few words as possible but I’m going to try really hard—maybe if I start by summarizing things in list form it will help:

1.)    Oldest teen gave all sorts of attitude and sass to Mom while riding home from school one day.

2.)    Mom tells teen if that kind of attitude happens again on the ride home tomorrow, teen can get their own transportation back to school at 6 for the school production teen was in (just  a background part, by the way, and several of these dancers have had to miss at least one show so if she’d missed it, the world wouldn’t have come to an end). 

3.)    Teen sasses Mom big time on the way home from school the next day, before the car is even out of the parking lot.

4.)    Mom takes teen home and says she’s not taking teen to school for the show and goes for a walk, but makes sure that the aravan is behind the “teen car” so teen can’t stupidly try to drive that car because she doesn’t have a driver’s license yet.  She could call friends for a ride, walk, or ride her bike.

5.)    When Mom (and Dad) return, they discover teen has miraculously backed the car out of the garage, around the aravan and has driven it to school.  (Later they learn she also went through the Whataburger drive-thru before she got to school.)  After retrieving the car from the school parking lot and bringing it home, Mom and Dad discover that the front end of the car is damaged, the back end, as well as the side of their backyard fence, and that other things have been damaged in daughter’s haste to back out the car, items that were “in the way”.

While it ran through our heads to have the school security guard yank her offstage, Andy chose to be waiting for her in the lobby at the end of the show to deliver the news of her consequences.  Many people thought we should have called the police and had them “pull her over”, but we chose not to go that route.  We chose to make it as close to a jail at home as we possibly could. In-room grounding (even meals eaten in room), cell phone service cut off, iPod taken away, computer on lockdown.  Driving class suspended indefinitely, at least a month, and the online part of the course is about to expire so she’ll have to pay to reinstate it.  Volunteer work in the community and extra jobs around the house; once getting her license, she’ll have to have paid for the damages to the car (and fence) or she won’t be driving it.

And how do you think she took these consequences? Contritely, with head down and profuse apologies? Remember, we have a defiant kid here, and things have not been pretty.  So as a result, we pulled a couple extracurriculars, and things got worse. “I can do whatever I want, whenever I want!!” has been the mantra coming from her. She doesn’t think what she did was that much of a “big deal”.

Just when we were about to give up and throw our hands up in the air from all the turmoil, I had an “ah-hah” moment.  It suddenly occurred to me that if this kid is “bucking the system” so hard, she must want some independence.  So let’s give it to her, I told Andy.  “You don’t like it when we take your extracurriculars away?” we asked her. “Okay, you can have all of them back.  But anything that’s not required for a grade or any part of an activity not required, we’re not going to support, not financially or with transportation.  You get to own them from now on. You have that freedom now.”   

Andy felt like we’d still given up, that she was getting everything handed to her on a plate, but I said, just wait.  If we stick to this, she’ll either get more responsible or get even angrier, and I’m ready for either one.

So far, we’ve seen a mixture of both.   She’s still mad because she’s still not going to be able to enter an upcoming solo and duet dance competition, and she still doesn’t see that what she did was that big of a deal. But I heard her make a phone call on THE LAND LINE for I think the first time ever the other day, as she arranged for transportation to the Sunday performance of the school show.  She stopped demanding that I go buy her supplies to add to her stage makeup because she knew I wouldn’t do it.  She packed her own sack dinner because I refused to “make a special trip to bring takeout dinner to her dressing room “like all the other parents do”.  And for the first time, yesterday she got herself up early enough to actually come in and wake us up, as Andy had told her she needed to do if she wanted a ride to school.

I may be a fool, but I’m not foolish enough to think this new parenting stance is instantly going to make things better.  But at least it is giving us hope.  And it sure feels good to unburden ourselves of some tasks and give them to her, which probably should have been done a long time ago. 

Potty (Mouth) Training Revisited

I watched with interest all the hoopla last week about the little girl on the ABC-TV show “Modern Family”, who was depicted as cursing on last week’s episode (or is it “cussing”?).  See, “using swear words” had already been a “hot topic” around our house this month.  In the wake of the episode, which was entitled “Little Bo Bleep”, I found lots of online psycho-babble by professors and other experts chiming in about how swearing is, among other things, a natural part of early language development, cathartic, and helps people tolerate pain.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, I think most people already know that.  And we also know something else the experts were saying, that, just like in the Modern Family episode, little kids use swear words without really knowing what they mean, and get a kick out of adults’ reactions when they use them, and so they’ll say them again.  “Modern Family” was just art imitating real life.  (Does that mean the Parents Television Council, the group who first caused a stink about the show, is not made up of real parents? Sometimes I wonder…) But what I really wanted to know amidst last week’s jaw flapping was how real parents deal with swearing by children and teens.  

When we first heard four-letter-words spoken in the teen years by our oldest, our stance was to ignore them, just like we’d ignore insults, to lessen their “power”, hopefully communicating the message that “if you’re trying to get a reaction out of us, it’s not gonna happen”, which would hopefuly lessen their occurance.  Some “experts”, like the parenting coach at The Huffington Post, would agree.  Well, this stance worked okay— there wasn’t a lot of cussing… but it was still happening.   (I think, whether they get a reaction out of adults or not, teens feel “grown up” when they cuss, especially in front of adults, and that’s a reward in itself!) One day Emmie came to Andy and I and said, “I don’t want to live in a house where there’s cussing, it’s not fair that Allison doesn’t get in trouble, and you know I’d get in trouble if I did the same thing!!” And we said, “You’re right,” because she was.  (Besides, I suddenly pictured two kids swearing in my house instead of one, and it wasn’t pretty.)  And so we changed our stance. A few weeks ago, we told the girls we weren’t allowing cussing in the house anymore, and that if they decided they couldn’t communicate nicely with words, then we’d take away their other main form of communication– their phone.  “F that!!!” said Allison. Au revoir, said her phone.

“But they’re just words! What’s the big deal?” she said.  We explained that every place, every group of people has their own rules, and that in this house, we’ve decided we don’t want to hear cussing anymore. “I don’t think your school wants to hear it in the classroom,” I said, “and I don’t think your church youth group allows it, either!”  More cussing followed, but I think she’s finally gotten the message, now that her phone has been gone over two weeks.

Are we being ridiculous? Is this a battle most other parents choose not to fight?  I checked on, a great gathering site for moms of all ages and stages, to see if there was any current buzz about swearing.  There were a lot of posts and comment threads about the topic– one in particular among “Moms of Teens” had about 40 different parent replies, and it looked like the majority of those parents don’t allow swearing, especially when it’s directed at someone. 

While I don’t believe we need to tell kids that all swearing is wrong, we can teach them that not everyone wants to hear it, even some of their own peers, and that unless you know someone’s boundaries on the subject, it’s best to keep your four-letter favorites private.  (I’ve known of people who have lost jobs because they thought that swearing during a business meeting would make them appear “tough”!)  Kids might also be encouraged to come up with different words or phrases that can help them “let it all out” without crossing the line.  (I’m sure my kids get sick of hearing me say, “Oy vey!”)  I’ll never forget the time, while I was growing up, when a neighborhood friend told me that she’d come up with a way to “cuss without cussing”.  “You just pronounce the words differently!” she announced proudly.  “So now I can say ‘FEWK’ when I’m mad and I won’t get in trouble!!”

Whatever works, I thought…but somehow, it just didn’t seem very cathartic…

Teaching Kids to “Respect Their Elders”– Is It A Lost Cause?


Sorry for not writing for more than a few days, but I’ve been deep in thought and research about a topic that I know is near and dear to many parents’ (and grandparents’) hearts, not to mention Aretha Franklin’s: Respect. It has occurred to me this fall that, among the many values that Andy and I have actively tried to impart to our kids over the years, respect for adults has not been one of those we’ve worked especially hard at.  Geesh,  do we have to teach everything? Can’t some things just occur naturally? Well, for our oldest, respect for adults pretty much did come naturally, with the exception of the adults known as her parents, but hers is more of a “defying parents for the sake of defiance” issue rather than respect.  As far as I know and have seen over these past (almost) 17 years of her life, she is generally nothing but polite to teachers and other adults in her life.  We often hear compliments on her maturity and politeness.  Our youngest is a different story. I should have taken more notice during past Girl Scout meetings, when Emmie would talk to others while I or another leader would be trying to explain something to the group.  I should have taken more notice during elementary school—teachers would tell us she was talking back to them in class, talking while they were talking, arguing an unjust punishment for herself or others, laughing at something they’d say to her when she wasn’t supposed to be laughing…we’d implore her to behave and to stop getting in trouble. But we rarely had her look at things from the respect side—it’s not just “Behave so you won’t get into trouble”, it’s also, “These people are older than you, know a lot more than you, spend almost every day teaching you, and deserve your respect, or at least deserve to be treated with respect, whether you agree with everything they do and say or not.  Just like you like to be respected by younger kids.”  Emmie is a pretty deep thinker—I think she might have grasped that concept, especially if she’d heard it repeatedly, as I’m sure some parents repeat as often as they remind their babies to brush their teeth, when babies start getting teeth. But maybe because she’s the baby, we let things slide?


Now in Jr. High and about 5 weeks away from becoming a teenager, it’s not teachers she’s disrespecting– it’s us.  Our baby, the sweet, empathetic one, the one who gives random hugs and is still not afraid to snuggle up next to either parent in the church pew on Sunday? Say it ain’t so!  But, just like she thought she was on the same level as her teachers back in elementary school, she truly thinks she’s on the same level as her parents. Here’s a recent example: I need to make a phone call one evening while I’m at my computer, and so I pick up the phone on my desk. Before I can dial the numbers, I hear girl voices on the phone and realize that Emmie is talking to a friend. “Hey Emmie, I need to make a call so you’ll need to get off now,” I say into the phone. That’s happened before– it’s routine in a two-story house when I can’t hear what’s going on upstairs, and me telling her that should be no big deal–  in the past she has wrapped up her call and called the friend back later. But this time she argues with me over the phone, with her friend still on the line.


“You can use your cell phone,” she tells me. (Excuse me, what?!)


“No, I don’t want to use my cell phone, you have your own cell phone that you can use,” I say. 


“I don’t know where mine is,” she says.


“Well, you need to find it and get off of the phone now.  I need to make a call.”


She won’t give up.  I ask Andy to help out, and when she hears he is coming she tells her friend good-bye and gets off the phone, but she is not happy, and makes it known to him.  All about how rude I am and how I can use my cell phone just as easily as she can. He tries to explain to her that the reception on my cell phone inside the house isn’t that great and that, especially for a business call, I need to use the land line.  But she doesn’t understand.  She thinks that whenever she asks me to use my other phone, I should be polite and just use it—“No other parent would be rude by saying no!” she spouted.  He tries to explain to her that I am the adult and she is the child, but she’ll have nothing of that talk.  She goes into a rage and proceeds to lose many privileges.


In the aftermath, I realize that while consequences for bad behavior are important, Andy and I have to get to the root of the problem if any behavior/attitude is going to change— this phone incident isn’t isolated, and after all these years of “sliding by”, she really does see herself on the same playing field as an adult. Can we possibly get her to learn respect at this stage?


According to many experts, it’s going to be hard…respect is something that should be instilled from toddlerhood on.  But what else can we do but try? Among the tips I gathered recently, I liked the following, which, if used regularly, may help us and anyone else who needs a respect boost:


-If you don’t want kids to put themselves at your level, don’t put yourself at their level. Don’t allow  yourself to get into an argument with a child—repeat your request and follow up with consequences if needed, but don’t defend your request. You can let it be known that you will be happy to discuss things later, but at present, you need such-and-such to happen. So many experts say again and again, Use As Few Words As Possible. Be Succinct. Be Firm. And, (deep breath) Be Calm.


-If a child calls you to ask you something in your house (non-emergency of course), no matter how small or how big the house, don’t get up and go to them.  If they need something, they need to come to you and ask in person. Do not set up the atmosphere that you are at their beck and call. If you need to ask them something, they need to come to you as well.


-Make sure you are modeling respect of elders by acting respectful toward those who are older than you—your own parents, other older relatives, etc.  If you need to vent about something, do so to your spouse or a friend out of earshot of your children.


-Constantly remind your kids to be respectful of adults when the child is going to a friend’s house, a club meeting, etc.  I think some kids have the mentality that they don’t want to be seen as a “suck up” or Teacher’s Pet, but there is a difference in being kind and respectful and being an “Eddie Haskell” (yeah, I’m showing my age with that one and I don’t care). Have them get comfortable with simply asking adults, “Is there anything I can do to help?” I hear that rarely from kids but when I do, it’s such sweet music. Follow up when your child returns, and ask them if they were able to help.


-Be confident and sure of yourself in front of your kids—leave the self-doubts for another place and time.  Use whatever it takes to help you feel that way— prayer and quiet time; music (the theme song from “Rocky” perhaps? “We are the Champions”? J); parenting books/tapes (I always feel like I have a confident edge for about 24 hours after I listen to a Love and Logic CD while cleaning or driving); television (old reruns of The Cosby Show or Andy Griffith can do the trick…or watching whoever else you think is a “confident parent” role model); reading this blog so that you know you’re not alone; and treating yourself well, i.e. getting enough sleep and eating right, can also go a long way in helping you be on top of your game. It’s amazing how much better I can face the stressful late afternoons of chauffeuring cranky kids around when I’ve snuck a snack in my purse. But what does being confident and treating yourself well have to do with respect? When you’ve got your act together, you’re less likely to put yourself on a child’s level when the going gets tough– not to mention that kids, especially older ones, will give some measure of respect to someone who’s confident rather than someone who’s always second-guessing themselves.


What do you do, if anything, in your family to help foster respect for adults?  Or what did your parents do for you? I’m all ears…(’cause I’ve been “in the dark” for so long…)

Uncool and Biblical

On our recent family trip to Iowa we took a tour of an Amish community– rode in a van with a tour guide through rolling farmland and saw homestead after homestead of Old Order Amish families, working in gardens, driving wagons down the highway, running through the fields barefoot… there are 2,000 Amish living near Kalona, Iowa (almost 200,000 in the U.S.) and according to our guide, the community is growing, thanks to their large average family size.   It was fascinating, like something straight out of the movie, Witness, but Emmie thought it was just plain stupid that anyone would want to live like that.  No electricity (the Amish stores we visited used only skylights for lighting), no in-home phones, schooling only through the 8th grade, long pants and dresses all the time, even in the hot summertime… They subscribe to this type of lifestyle due in part to a Bible verse that advises “do not be conformed to this world” (Romans 12:2) and similar verses in other chapters that refer to not being “of the world”.

While most of us gawking tourists probably thought we had nothing in common with the hat-clad people outside our van windows, it struck me later that all uncool moms and any parent who’s ever tried to pull their kids back from the “everybody’s doing it so why can’t I” attitude has a bit of the Amish, and scripture, in their actions (and if you’re really uncool like me and have your kids do their own laundry and other chores, you share even more in common!).  Who knew that “Just because your friends jump off a cliff doesn’t mean you have to do the same!” was inspired over 2,000 years ago?! (Well, God is a parent, after all…)

So, in addition to the postcards and apple butter I brought home, I’ve also got a few new items to add to my arsenal of parenting lines. Now when one of my kids defiantly asks, “Why can’t I?” I might choose to answer, “Because God says so!” or “Because the Bible says so!” or, “BECA– USE I’M GOING AMISH ON YOUR ASS, THAT”S WHY!!!”  (Oops, sorry, I wouldn’t really say that…I’m still a little sleep deprived from that long drive back from Iowa…)

The Pretzel Logic of Kids: Can I At Least Get Some Mustard To Go With That?

A friend of mine told me a great parenting line the other day, something her parents used to say when their grown children blamed them for “raising them wrong”: “Well, somebody’s got to help keep the therapists in business.” If only I’d heard that a few days earlier.  My teenager, after getting very upset that I was spending my Saturday getting the house ready for company instead of driving her to Toni & Guy for a haircut, left me speechless with a tirade about how all her problems with anger management were my fault.  “You raised me wrong!” she screamed as I attempted to clean the kitchen.  I held my ground, and reminded her that she’s had issues with anger all her life. “Remember when you were three or four,” I said, “and one morning you demanded that you be served candy for breakfast, and when I said no you went nuts?”

“See?” she said. “That’s what I’m talking about. If you’d just give me what I want instead of saying no all the time, I wouldn’t have to be angry!”

I didn’t know whether to laugh or throw my scrubber sponge at her.

“But that’s not how life is,” I said.  “You can’t possibly get everything you want, for a lot of reasons, and you’ve got to learn to deal with that. People who get their way all the time turn out to be spoiled brats.”

She reminded me of several people who get whatever they want, whenever they want it, and that they’ve turned out to be very nice people.  I didn’t know what to say. 


But not for long.  I went on to tell her that everyone usually blames their parents for all their faults at some point in their life and then hopefully someday wakes up and realizes that they are their own person, that they are free to be, do, and act however they choose and that if they don’t like something about themselves, they have the power to change it. (Yeah, I was on a roll!) I reminded her of several ways her dad and I have guided her life in positive ways but that her temperament was pretty much set at birth.  I thought maybe for once I’d left her speechless.  “Well, ” she said, “then you probably did something bad when you were pregnant with me.”

Oy vey! But don’t worry– no guilt-ridden parent here. If there’s anything I’m guilty of, it’s that I don’t always remember another great parenting line: “Never argue with a kid.”

Yahoos and Boo-hoos

I cried yesterday on the first day of school.  I didn’t think I would.  I mean, I’ve been looking forward to this day.  As a work-at-home mom with two kids, back-to-school means I can get more work done.  Peacefully.  Back-to-school means I can go back to my exercise class.  I can play my own choice of music at my desk without it clashing with the theme song to The Suite Life With Zack and Cody– and sing along if I choose!  And I can clean the house in my underwear (not that I would, but it’s nice to know I could).  But this back-to-school was a mixed bag of emotions, since it was the first day of high school for my oldest daughter, Allison.  Almost as emotional as the first day of kindergarten. Maybe, in truth, moreso.  Only, sadly, there’s not really a proper place for moms to cry on the first day of high school.

With elementary school, it’s different.  It’s almost expected, at least for kindergarten and first grade.  Even Dads are able to get misty-eyed without embarrassment.  Teachers stand ready to share one of the many boxes of kids’ Kleenex stacked against the wall.    Our school even had a parent gathering one year in the cafeteria, after the bell rang on the first day, called “Yahoos and Boo-hoos”, kind of a reception to ease the pain and welcome the school year for new and returning parents.

But with the tremendous milestone of entering high school, I knew we parents were supposed to act like it’s “no big deal”.  I knew, before she told us, what Allison expected of us on the first day: No pictures taken at school, only Mom would go along, and I was to just drive up and let her out.  (And drive away quickly, so as not to look like an overprotective parent, and so less people can see our embarrassing minivan.)  Just like with the first day of Jr. High.  (And parental crying, of course, is a big no-no.)

So I found myself shedding my “high school tears” in the bathroom as I got ready for the day.  Darn, why did they have to start just as I was about to put on mascara?  Maybe it was because I was facing myself in the mirror, kind of like facing my conscience: “This is it.  This is high school.  The beginning of the end.  She will be out of your life before you know it.” WAHHHHH!  I had to turn my back and grab a Kleenex fast because I heard her coming. She wanted to share the bathroom mirror. I knew she had first-day jitters, and seeing me cry would only make them worse. “My contacts are giving me fits this morning,” I said. “I don’t know why!” Luckily she paid no attention as I finally put on the mascara and she began straightening her hair.

After Andy and I took her younger sister to start 5th grade (complete with a photo by the school sign and a hug in the classroom), we arrived back home and found Allison in the kitchen, all ready to go, with plenty of time for her to eat breakfast and re-arrange the contents of her new book bag a few times. (I wondered to myself if this would be the only time this year that she’d be ready a full 45 minutes before the start of school!)  My husband kissed us good-bye and left for work, and then it was time to go.  Upon arriving at school, I missed the turn-in for the carpool line (Aw, Mom!) but it was just as well, since it was stacked about 10 cars deep. We managed to get close to the door anyway, in an adjacent parking lot that wasn’t crowded, which gave us the opportunity to pause as long as we wanted.  “Have a great day,” I said, and– she let me give her a hug!! And she smiled!! (And I didn’t cry!!) Wow, maybe this is the dawn of something new and different!!

A fleeting hope.  As I called out after her as she exited the car– “Pick-up is 4:10, right? Right?!”– she frowned.  “STOP YELLING!” she yelled at me, then turned in a huff, and walked up the sidewalk. I kept myself from crying once again.  She’s just uptight about her first day, I thought.  And then I smiled as I drove away, knowing that next time I get drop-off sass, I’m going to do what I once did when she was in Jr. High, which effectively makes future good-byes so much sweeter (at least for awhile): As she walks into school, I’ll simply roll down the window, wave wildly and sing out, in my loudest, best mom voice, “BYE, ALLISON!! I LOVE YOU!!”  

(adapted from a recent post I made at , a local community news and blog site)


Emmie starts 5th grade

Allison poses in the backyard before heading to freshman year

What to Expect the Sassy Years: Dealing With Back Talk


There are so many books, websites and blogs devoted to
chatting about the sweet early years of childhood but not nearly as many for
after age 7-8 and even fewer once they hit 10. 
I remember how lost I felt when the “What to Expect” books abruptly
ended. What do I do now? I thought.  Yet
parenting gets much tougher at this point, and the Sassy Years last many more
years than the Sweet Years (in my case, considering my oldest child argued
about what clothes she’d wear to school when she was in kindergarten, the Sassy
Years were in full swing at age 5 1/2). 
It’s a shame there aren’t more well-known advice-givers that specialize
on these later years like there are for the earlier years.  The Today Show and others always used to have their “go-to” guys for parenting help, but their talk always focused on early childhood.  
In lieu of that, we’ll help each other.

Dealing With Back Talk

One of the biggest points of
turmoil between parents and older kids is back talk. I hear other parents talking about it all the
time.  Parents are greatly saddened that
their once sweet child is sassing back to them.  I’m not going to get into the sociological, biological, or
psychological reasons it happens, it just does, in many families, pretty
commonly after a certain age.  If we
parents could just get a handle on this, things would be a lot calmer in the
long run.  In my own house and in
others, a typical scene went like this:

Child #1: You’re stupid and I hate you!

Parent #1: (raising voice to a pitch not unlike a bellowing
moose) How dare you talk to me that way! Go to your room!

Child #1: (screaming) No!

Parent #1: You’d better get to your room on the count of 5 or
you’re grounded from going to the birthday party tomorrow.  1-2-3-4-5. 
(Child still not in room).  Okay,
that’s it! No birthday party now!

Child #1: (crying and screaming) No!!! You can’t do that!  Please!!!!!!! Please, I’ll do anything to
go!!! I’m sorry I said all those things!!! WAHHHHH!

Parent #1: No! You know I mean what I say.  No means No.  And that’s final.  You
need to make better choices next time!

Child #1: (gets so upset she throws all her school supplies
from the second floor to the first. 
Colored pencils come showering like raindrops down the stairs.  Dog starts barking.)

Parent #1: Now you’re in trouble.  Pick up the mess you’ve made.

Child #1: No! Let me go to the party and I will!

Parent #1:  If you don’t
pick up the mess you’ve made, you’re grounded from having friends over this
weekend or going to their houses.

Child #1: Fine!! I don’t care!!! (Slams bedroom door so hard
the house shakes, a big no-no in our house). 
Parent #2 goes in and spanks Child, who cries and screams.

All this has taken a huge chunk of time out of our evening
and has left everyone exhausted.  Child
#2, the younger sister, is crying in her room, she hates all the commotion that
often swirls around Child #1.  Parent #2
is shaking, Parent #1’s heart is pounding and she is feeling like you could
peel her off the ceiling.  The dog has
slunk off to hide in a corner.  And they
all are facing a weekend where Child #1 is grounded and must stay in the house– not fun.  By the next day, Parent #2 is
trying to strike a deal for good behavior with Child #1 in order for her to
earn back her privileges, which makes Parent #1 highly upset that both parents
are not on the same page, that they are not showing a unified front (very wishy
washy and not good for the child!)  She
knows the child will never learn if stated consequences are not followed
through, and so bad feelings emerge between the parents and a possible argument!


All because of one utterance, one sentence: “You’re
stupid, and I hate you.”


For too long, I kept thinking of other parents in my head
saying, “Don’t take that from your child. 
How disrespectful. No parent should allow that kind of talk!” And so I
would get angry with my kid.  And maybe in some
families, a “Go to your room” would have worked just fine.  But in my family and particularly with Child
#1, it became clear that this type of reaction would always end up with a Power
Struggle spiral, spiraling out of control and downward into a lose-lose situation.  I have since found a way to get the upper hand, only in a different
way.  The Love and Logic books and
website have all sorts of great comeback lines you can use to keep your cool
(and still respect yourself) when your kid “takes you aback” by something
they’ve said.  You can use their lines
or come up with your own.  One that I came up with that I like to use is “Tell me something I don’t already know.”


Now, I will admit that we don’t do this if we get insulted in front of non-family members.  “Disrespect in public” is strictly forbidden, and the cell phone gets taken away, one day for every insult.  Also, sometimes I forget my mantra if I’m tired or hungry or have had a
really bad day, and revert to
Reactionary Angry Mom (nobody’s perfect). But those times
are now much fewer.  It’s just too
delicious to have the upper hand in a back-handed way.  Here are recent conversations that have gone
on in my house and minivan:


Child: You’re stupid and I hate you.

Parent: I know that. 
Please tell me something I don’t already know.

Child: (fuming) Why would you say that?  That’s stupid.

Parent: Because it’s true. 
I am stupid, and I know you hate me.

(Conversation eventually fizzles out, because she just can’t
say anything that will bug me, or she’ll try a more civilized way of saying
what she needs to say.)


The following conversations use a variation of my “mantra”:

Child: You’re such a dork.

Parent:  I know. I
agree.  I’m happy to be a dork.

Child: (fuming) Why would you say that?

Parent: Because if you didn’t think I was a dork, then I
would be doing something wrong as a parent. 
Kids are supposed to think their parents are dorks.  So actually, calling me a dork is a
compliment. I’m being a good parent.

Child:  Then I’m
going to say that you’re great and beautiful and perfect.

Parent:  Gee, thanks!

Child: (Fuming) Whatever.


Child: I’m the only one of my friends who has to do her own
laundry.  You’re such a loser.

Parent:  No, the
other parents are losers since they haven’t taught their teenagers something as
simple as turning on water and pouring in soap.