No one likes a teenager who can’t keep their bad attitude and mouthiness under control, but is it all bad? Actually, no! If we as parents can take a deep breath and look deeper to see what’s underneath that big mouth we just might find a kid in there that has some really good attributes. So, in essence, their motive can be good while their method really sucks.
Our kids want to be taken seriously, right? Of course! This is something I’ve worked really hard on with my daughters, because let’s face it…women have a very strong reputation for being bitchy. The problem with that is pretty obvious. No one wants to help or admit a person who acts like that might be right.
Several years ago the girls and I watched a movie based on a true story with Drew Barrymore who was playing the woman whom the story was based on. The big idea of the movie is this woman wanted to save whales. It’s a fantastic cause, but the huge problem she had to getting people to help with this cause is she was a MASSIVE witch! Everybody hated her and rightfully so. Her motive was good, but her method was terrible and so terrible, in fact, that it was counterproductive to what she was trying to get accomplished.
I often say to kids, “When you’re snotty and disrespectful that is all others will see. They will not see what it is you are really trying to say. You won’t be taken seriously. If you want to be respected then you better work on your delivery.”
Guys, work on this with your kids! I will throw out the disclaimer: This will try every ounce of patience you have…but it’s worth it. Next time your kid gets mouthy, take a deep breath, let them finish, and then say something like this: “Listen, I see you have some good points, but the way you come across is counterproductive to what you’re trying to accomplish. If you want others, including me, to take you seriously and actually try to understand what you’re saying, then you need to work on how you come across. That means you are going to have to control your emotions. Talk to me like you are talking to a supreme court judge who obviously has the power to throw your butt in jail. Plead your case in a respectful, mature and thorough way and I will be happy to listen.”
Use other opportunities when someone else looses their cool to teach them. It’s so much easier to learn from someone else’s bad behavior than it is our own. In our mind sometimes we feel justified because emotions are running high. Without being judgmental , use it as an example. Say something like: “It’s pretty sad how they’re acting because I can see they have a really good point, but they way they are expressing themselves makes everyone want to scatter.” And then try to turn this into a conversation giving your kids an opportunity to tell you how they saw it. The world will give us endless opportunities to learn and to teach others! USE THEM!
Once you’ve laid the ground work with your kids, hold them to your standard. When my girls were in middle school the mouthiness reared it’s ugly head pretty bad, so this is what I did:
I explained what I just said above. Then I told them I wanted them to learn how to negotiate to get what they wanted or needed. I explained that I was the supreme court judge and they were the attorneys coming to plead their case. They needed to think long, wide and deep just like I would providing all the informations they thought I would ask for. They would plead their case and then….accept the answer.
This taught them negotiation, respect, to think ahead, to anticipate what would be needed and it also taught them to accept “No,” like a good sport. And guess what? It worked. To this day my girls come to me with a lot more than just a few facts. They know not to even ask for something without having all the facts, the utmost respect for me, for my judgement and respect for our relationship. If they even remotely step out of line a look from me straightens them right up. The most I ever have to say is, “What message do you think that sends when you act that way?” They understand and adjust every time.
We want kids who buck systems that don’t work. We want kids that will stand up for something they think is messed up, even if it has to do with us! Why? Because that is how you raise world changers! Fuel their fire in the right way, but to do that you HAVE TO leave your pride at the door. Being defensive will not help this. Looking deeper and helping them direct that angst they feel in the right direction is what will help them grow.
This takes patient consistency and a firm hand. What our kids need is stability. Give them that in the way you live your life, how you treat people, how you make decisions, and how you relate to them. Be predictable. One of the best compliments I have received from my girls is that I am predictable. That’s what we want because it gives our kids the permission to not have all the answers and to relax. When they don’t know how something will turn out it gives them massive anxiety.
Let me know how it goes if you choose to be the supreme court judge in your family 🙂