Charity P.'s daughter is developing a "smart mouth" and the attitude to go with it. As the Circle of Moms member describes it, "She is very disrespectful, especially in public and in front of company." Unchecked, the problem is just getting worse and worse. "What do I do?" she laments.
Moms of yore simply washed their teens' mouths out with a bar of soap. But these days, parents are looking for more relaxed and effective ways to stop this disrespectful behavior. Given these higher expectations, how do you get your teen to stop the snide and rude back talk? Here are six smart suggestions from Circle of Moms members who've wrestled with this issue.
1. Remain Calm
Even when your teen is raising her voice, it's imperative that you stay cool, say several Circle of Moms members. Julie A. recommends calmly suggesting your daughter stop immediately, explaining, "Make the time to sit with them alone and just listen and empathize. It's not a time for advice or lectures, unless they ask. Starbucks is a great opportunity for them to feel valued and listened to . . . but alone in a bedroom, or wherever, works too."
Stephanie J. is another mom who stresses the importance of staying calm. If it's a struggle, she suggests that you "sit and write the things down that really get you down. Then decide what [about your teen's choices] you can live with, and what needs to change."
2. Provide Tough Love
Your job as mom is not to be your teen's best friend, advises Circle of Moms member Trish. "It's hard to maintain the balance between parent and friend, because I want him to talk to us, but I still want to maintain authority." She reminds her 15-year-old son that she is his mom and that there are rules for how he is to communicate. "He will not leave the house, or do anything if he continues to talk in 'that' tone of voice."
Moms agree that while they try to validate and respect their teens' feelings, they won't tolerate rude and nasty language. "Tell them if they want to talk to you in an appropriate tone, you will listen," says Terri H. "Your daughter will learn from your strength. Tough love with a lot of understanding goes a long way."
3. Enforce Consequences
Many Circle of Moms members recommend walking away and shutting down your part of the conversation until the attitude stops. Lisa M. also suggests creating consequences for the back talk. "I tell my daughter that I will not be speaking to her until she stops," she shares. "I have a 15-year-old daughter and she has moments where she thinks she's the adult and knows everything, or my favorite when she rolls her eyes at me like I am the stupidest person that she has ever encountered in her life." If her daughter continues to be rude, she takes away privileges: "including her computer, iPod, sleepovers, dances or whatever she will miss the most."
Cheryl P. is another mom who says consequences work with teens. "When she is fresh with the mouth and behavior, I start taking things away. I tell her 'I only have to provide you with food, clothes and a roof over your head.' Nothing else."
4. Keep Your Perspective
"Smart mouths" aren't strictly a teenage phenomenon. Many Circle of Moms members say they remember the first time their 2-year-old spouted "No!" But though rebellious behavior is somewhat developmentally appropriate, moms need to reinforce that it's the tone and delivery they are concerned with and will not tolerate, says Elizabeth M. "Honestly you have to pick and choose your battles," she says. "Every teenager (and even more so of girls) goes through the attitude. I'm sure if you think back you will remember having the attitude. Eventually the attitude gets better, it just takes time."
5. Don't Cave In
It's easy to cave in when teens are coming on strong, but Circle of Moms members advise moms stick to their guns. Stay strong and don't give in, advises Suzy S. "A teen who talks rudely to a parent once or twice and gets away with it will continue the behavior, and it will progressively get worse," she says. "My daughter is 13, will be 14 this November and believe me you are not alone. You do have to make sure that she knows that while you acknowledge she is growing up, you are still the parent and you are making the rules. Just keep trying with her, and hopefully she will come round in time."
6. Remind Them You Love Them
It takes a lot of patience, but moms need to remember that they are disciplining their teens because they love them. "There is a saying my mother uses, it goes like this: 'when they are good hug them, when they are bad, hug them harder,'" says Jackie M.
Teresa H. agrees: "Tell her how proud she makes you feel when she has done something good. If she answers back with attitude, don't say a word. Quite soon as you continue to change your own attitude towards dealing with things she will notice. I assure you, it gets better."
How do you deal with your teen's back talk?
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