Attitude Makeover: Fresh

Step 2. Announce a"No Freshness Policy" and Then Stick To It
Calmly announce your zero tolerance for fresh behavior and language to your kid. Make sure it is a relaxed, uninterrupted time, and then clarify your new policy in a firm, serious tone. This is no time for discussion, negotiation, or compromise. In fact, the whole discussion should be brief. Just express why his fresh attitude will no longer be tolerated: you might explain your family's code of values and your personal beliefs and how a fresh attitude goes against those values. Also let your child know that if his attitude continues, there will be a consequence. Here are a few ways to explain your new standards:

"Please don't use a whiny baby voice when you want something to eat. In this family, we always ask for things respectfully."

"Four-letter words are forbidden in this family."

"I notice that when I talk to you, you roll your eyes. That's disrespectful, and you must stop right away."

"Telling me to 'get a life' when I am talking to you is rude. You may not talk that way."

Step 3. Refuse To Engage With A Fresh-Mouthed Attitude
Kids are much more likely to stop using fresh, sassy attitudes and bad language if they find they don't work in getting what they want. Whenever your kid lays a fresh attitude on you, flat out refuse to respond until he is respectful. And do so every time he acts fresh. The best response to a fresh kid is to turn and walk away calmly. No, you're not abandoning your kid; you're letting him know you expect respect and won't deal with him until he acts respectfully. Usually when kids see that you are serious and will not going to give in, they stop.

Beware: Be careful that you don't send any nonverbal messages to your kid. For instance, don't sigh, roll your eyes, shrug your shoulders, or look exasperated. Doing so is technically "responding." Remember that some kids actually enjoy seeing you ticked off, so don't give your child the pleasure. Here are a few examples of how to respond:

"Stop. That's being fresh. When you have a respectful attitude, you can find me in the kitchen."

"I can't understand that sassy voice. I listen only to nice voices."

"We'll talk when you can listen respectfully without rolling your eyes and smirking."

Step 4. Set a Stern Consequence if Fresh Attitude Continues
If you've been clear with your expectations and the fresh attitude and gestures still continue, it's time to set a consequence. Whenever your kid does display that attitude, call it on the spot by briefly describing what she did that was disrespectful – for example, "I've explained before that you may not talk to me in that tone of voice. Since you can't talk respectfully to your family, you may not use your cell or any other phone for the next twenty-four hours. Put it in the drawer, please."

There should be no discussion: just calmly state the consequence, then enforce it and don't back down. He needs to know that his attitude will not be tolerated. Here are a few other consequences for different ages that address fresh, flippant attitudes:

  • Time-out away from activities. Younger kids who talk back and sass can be removed from the room until they can talk respectfully: "Lydia, that was sassing. Go to time-out for five minutes." Make sure the area is one where she may not receive attention. The simplest rule for determining the time length is one minute for each year of the child's age (five years equals five minutes, ten years equals ten minutes, and so on). Some parents call the location the thinking chair or cool-down corner.
  • Apologizing. Comments delivered by fresh kids are rude but also hurtful, so make them accountable for their actions. Although they can't take back their spiteful words, they can at least ease the pain by apologizing. Even a four year old can say, "I'm sorry."
  • "Fresh jar." Establish a "fresh jar" – any jar with a lid that's set aside just for fresh, flippant attitudes. Clearly define what the bad attitude is, and set a fine. For kids short on money, make and post a list of chores that can be done to work off the fine. Each time the child swears, he is fined and must put the set amount of money in the jar. When the jar is filled, donate the money to a charity of your choice.
  • Removal from family. Older children who are fresh to you or any other family member could lose the privilege of being in the room where you gather most regularly as a family (usually for a few hours or the rest of the day, depending on the crime). If the bad attitude continues, you could establish a stricter criterion: "If you can't treat your family respectfully, then you may not see your friends."
  • Loss of a privilege. Any child who uses flippant, fresh language on the telephone, including failing to answer the phone in a courteous manner, loses phone privileges for a set period.

Next: Keep at it >>

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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