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Dealing with Whining, Profanity, and Sass

Battling Tattling

Tattling happens most frequently between siblings, though it happens between playmates as well. Here's the issue—nobody likes a “rat,” but kids often get points for disclosing information. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind:

  • Never reward a tattler by punishing a child whose behavior you haven't seen.
  • Encourage kids to “tell” only if there are safety or moral issues involved. Stress that letting an adult know if something is truly wrong is not tattling.

Oh, That Sass!

Tales from the Parent Zone

I have a six-year-old daughter who questions everything—authority, assumptions, you name it. The other day I was telling her “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” for the umpteenth time, and she interrupted me. “Is Goldilocks the same size as Baby Bear?” “I guess so,” I said, adding, “That's why his chair is `just right' for her.” “Good,” she said, and paused, “but if they're the same size, why does Goldilocks break the chair when she sits in it?” Geez. Mind like a steel trap. The Grimm Brothers didn't write the answer to this one.

“Sass” is also known as “talking back” or “spunk,” and it's a quality in children that tends to elicit mixed responses from adults. The child who questions and defies is infuriating at times, and often knows just how to rile up anger. On the other hand, a child showing sassy behavior has a strong self-image, can stand up for herself, and is showing qualities that are worthy of respect in adults.

Consider why your child's sass is so upsetting to you. Is this an issue of hierarchy? Are you upset at her “sass” because you are an adult, she is a kid, and kids need to talk with respect to adults? Keep in mind that:

  • Standing up for yourself is different from being disrespectful. True sass is great (though infuriating).
  • The “sassy” child takes to heart the old bumper stickers “Question Authority” and “Question Assumptions.” She's probably a good thinker, intelligent, and possibly underchallenged. Give this kid more responsibilities!
  • Consider whether the child is “talking back” just to get a reaction from you.
  • This is the child who will be fighting for your rights when you're old, gray, and decrepit. Foster the positive impulse here. How about enrolling her in debate club?
  • Increased incidents of “talking back” might indicate something going on. Is your child very angry about something? How is she handling stress? Is something unusually stressful going on in life?
  • All kids are impudent at times.
  • It's great, and appropriate, for a child to express her feelings and opinions. She can do it with vehemence, she can do it in a sassy fashion, but she can not do it in an abusive manner.


Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to a Well-Behaved Child © 1999 by Ericka Lutz. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.

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