Attitude Makeover: Fresh

Antidote: Respect, Caring, Reverence
"You don't have a clue, Mom. Don't you know anything?"
Dear Dr. Borba,
I hate to admit this, but my once-charming twelve year old has become a nightmare. He's an incredible student who gets wonderful grades, but is flunking respect and courtesy. If somebody ever heard the way he talks to me, I'd die. I know he can be nice, because he is usually polite to other adults. I, on the other hand, would like to palm him off to the neighbors. How do I get my old kid back?

– Jenna W., a mom from Vancouver, British Columbia

Fresh-talking, flippant, sassy kids are on the rise, and can they ever push our buttons! And why not? Offspring with fresh attitudes are sarcastic, rude, and poster kids for the Big Brat Factor. They undermine your authority, challenge almost anything you say, and let you know in no uncertain terms that you don't have a clue. And their antics are also highly selfish and self-centered. Don't kid yourself for one minute that these guys are concerned about how you feel when they zap you with their sarcastic tones and curt jabs.

So where's all this coming from? Most parents would agree that kids have come to think it's cool to be fresh. Reality TV, raunchy song lyrics, and incendiary role models all contribute to the new rude and crude youth culture. It's something you can see and hear in kids' everyday conversations with their peers at home, at school, and on their instant e-mails and cell phone text messages. And of course a primary recipient of this bad attitude is usually going to be you.

Maybe your kid is just trying to be "in" with the "in crowd," but if fresh attitudes are allowed to continue, they can have very negative social consequences. No teacher, coach, scout leader, other child's parent, or almost any other adult, for that matter, appreciates a fresh kid. The good news is that disrespectful attitudes such as giving lip and sassiness can be curbed – that is, as long as you are consistent with your makeover plan and let your kid know in no certain terms that you are serious about teaching her the virtues of respect, caring, and reverence.

Emergency Attitude
From this moment on, any time your child uses disrespectful words, tones, or gestures toward you, immediately get up, and calmly walk out of her presence. Not just the first time, but each and every time your child does something fresh, your reaction must be consistent and persistent. I don't care if she wants to tell you something important or desperately needs your help, you must make your kid realize that a fresh attitude is intolerable and will no longer be indulged. This goes for little kids and big kids.

Bad Attitude Alert
Before you can curb your kid's fresh attitude, figure out where, why, what, who, and when your kid is resorting to this horrific conduct.

Answer these questions.

Why. The first most important question is to figure out why your kid has this fresh attitude. Have you been disrespectful to him? Has he seen you being disrespectful to your partner or other members of your family or friends? Here are some other things to consider: Has he been hanging out with a new crowd? Is he watching or listening to crude entertainment? Has he changed his appearance in trying to find a new image? What has your kid learned from being so fresh? Has it actually been effective? Is there a problem at home? A rift in your relationship? Does he resent you for some reason? Is there something about you or anything else going on right now that might be making him really mad? Does he hang around with friends who are disrespectful to their parents? What is your best guess as to why your kid is using this attitude?

What. Are there particular issues or things he is more sassy about? Are they about needing more privileges, wanting control or independence, needing attention, seeking revenge, or something else?

Who. Does she display the same fresh attitude to everyone? Does she talk differently when her friends are around? Are there some individuals she does not use her sassy tone and fresh ways on? If so, who? Why do you think this is the case? Is there anything different about their relationship with your kid? What about their response to her sassiness?

When. Is there a particular time of day, week, or month when he is fresher? Is there a reason? For instance, might he be needing control, or is he more stressed or overwhelmed than in the past? Did he just go to a concert, dance, or other influential event? Has he been sitting at home all day watching Jerry Springer? Also, when did you notice he first started being fresh and sassy? Can you think back as to what was going on in his world (family, school, friends) that might have triggered this attitude? Did he start hanging around with a new group of friends? Has he changed schools recently?

Where. Are there certain places he is more likely to be fresh (at school or day care, home, during dinner hour, in the car, with a particular kid or group of kids)? Does he use the attitude everywhere or mostly in certain places? If so, why?


From Don't Give Me That Attitude by Michele Borba, Ed.D. Copyright © 2004 by Michele Borba. All rights reserved. Used by arrangement with John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Buy the book at www.amazon.com.

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