Attitude. Every parent talks about it. The eye roll, the hip shift, the sigh, the irritated “Mo-om…”
Yep, kids throw attitude. Why? and… What should we do about it?
“Attitude” is part of having opinions and learning how to express them. So, we can hear what they are doing and code it as “an opinion” and then coach them to express it in a way that is more transparent and direct.
“Delia, I see you on the ipad. The deal is that you need to show me that you are done with your homework and ASK for screen time before hopping on. What happened?”
“Mo-om (with eye roll)… “
“Are you trying to tell me that you are irritated with me for reminding you of the rules?”
“Ugh, Mom, why do yo have to make this so hard??!!”
“You wish I had just not brought it up?”
“Yes, you are so irritating.”
“I can understand you being irritated. And, I still need to see your homework.” (Said patiently, without your own attitude…and maybe a bit of humor.)
“So, Delia, this is where you have a decision to make. You can keep acting irritated with me and likely lose access to the Ipad or other screens, or, you can take a deep breath, show me your homework, and have the possibility of still having some screen time. I will count to three while you decide. 1……2……”
“Fine, I’ll get my homework.” (still said in an irritated way… but following through on what you asked her to do)
“Great.” (said with a calm voice and soft approachable face)
“Here. It’s not all done. I couldn’t figure out the last 3 math problems.” (said in a curt, frustrated voice)
“Ah, those were tricky? Did you feel like you wanted a break from them because you got frustrated?”
“I guess. I just couldn’t do it.” (still irritated)
“Yeah, sometimes you just get to a point where you need a bit of a break or some help. I can understand that.”
“Yeah.” (slightly calmer)
“Are you ready to try again? I’m happy to help if you want.”
“OK. I’d like some help.”
“Alright, let’s put the Ipad up here. And head over to the table. Let’s see what we can figure out.”
The idea here is to lead with empathy and help her calm down before adding in too much logic. Calm brains hear things best. No need to take on “the attitude.” That isn’t going to help anything. You are addressing the problem straight on. That models healthy communication.
Also important, is letting her recover from her error. No need to make a huge deal about the Ipad or the homework, just enforce a clear limit with calm, empathy, and warmth. In this scenario, Delia was likely frustrated with her homework and retreated in the Ipad to escape her frustration instead of asking for help or working through the difficulty. That is not a healthy strategy. You are giving her the message that walking away and ignoring the problem is NOT the best approach. You are teaching a better way.
“OK, done. Thanks for letting me help. Those were a little tricky. I can see why you felt frustrated.”
“Yeah, we just learned that today and I couldn’t remember how to do it.”
“Understandable. I’m always happy to help. Ok, let’s talk about the Ipad….”
“Yep. I understand that you were frustrated with your homework. That you needed a break. However, you know the deal with screens and homework. AND, you know I will help or be able to understand when you need a break. When you don’t follow the rules, and you don’t talk to me about what is going on that is leading you to feeling like breaking the rules, it makes it hard to trust that you are responsible enough to use the screens without LOTS of supervision. And all that supervision takes LOTS of my energy. So, for the next 3 days, show me that you can get your homework done without me needing to ask or remind you and we can try again with access to screens.”
“Mo-om, that is so unfair!”
“Hmm, well, I can completely get that you don’t like that plan. What I know, is that YOU are really in charge of how much freedom you get. Show me that you can handle it, and you can have more of it. Up to you.” ( a little bit of empathy, and some logic)
“Ugh!!” (marches off)
Let her go. No need to follow up on this. She can handle the discomfort. She can deal with the consequences of her choices. She can be mad. At herself, AND you.
“Attitude” is just a way of expressing an opinion. The way you decide to respond to the WAY your child expresses her opinion will determine the dance you do over and over and over again as she grows.
Guide her in how to communicate her disappointment, irritation, and other strong feelings. SHOW her how to stay calm in the face of frustration and irritation. No need to take “attitude” on head on. Come around the corner and connect, and, or, simply don’t let that behavior pattern work for her.