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Tackling sass

CHILDWISE By RUTH LIEW

WHEN I asked my friends what they regarded as rude remarks from their children, I received mixed responses. They disagreed on what is considered rude. Perhaps it should be established from the start that it is considered rude when children intentionally use words to hurt other people’s feelings.

If an elderly person remarks that today’s children are rude and ill-mannered, he or she is probably right. Experts such as Michelle Borba, author of Don’t Give Me That Attitude, said that eye-rolling and general sassy behaviour is occurring more often among younger children. Teenagers are no longer the only ones who do back talking and display bad attitude. How did our children learn to be rude and frivolous in their behaviour? Just take a look around you. There is less politeness around these days. People don’t exactly go around saying, “Please” and “Thank you” anymore. When you walk down the street and someone accidentally bumps into you, there will be no word of apology forthcoming.

We need to get our children on the right track by responding appropriately and learning to use kinder words when we are upset or angry. Parents are children’s role-models when it comes to showing the right behaviour and using acceptable language in our everyday communication.Years ago, I remember teaching a four-year-old whose verbal communication was laden with profanity. When I approached his mother to discuss his colourful language, she laughed it off by saying: “Oh, my little Andrew is just like his dad!”

Children also pick up disrespectful behaviour when they watch sitcoms and commercials. Words that are used at the end of sentences such as “whatever” or “duh” can be catchy when the TV characters use them. They are disrespectful when our children use them in response to others. Some parents use sarcasm on their children instead of talking to them with respect. This encourages children to do the same when the time comes for them to act up. Children’s behaviour do reflect their parents’ own behaviour. So if you want your child to respond appropriately, start with yourself.
If your child is starting to act rudely or use inappropriate language to irritate you, make sure you put a stop to it immediately, before it gets worse. Let him know what are the words he must stop using with you. Give him the words to use that go well with you. Don’t engage in conversations with your child if he is rude. Once you have told your child what you do not want to hear, walk away. Your child needs to know that you will not give him audience when he is rude. Be clear in your expectations of your child. Many parents are indecisive when it comes to what they regard as rude. When their children were young, they thought that their rude behaviour was funny. As they grow older, their rude behaviour is no longer becoming and parents want to put a stop to it.

One parent I know regrets the way she has allowed her son to act rudely towards her. She wanted to project the image of a friend, instead of a parent. Her sons have grown into teenagers who use inappropriate language and lash out at her when they do not get what they want. Stay in control as a parent. You can have fun with your children, joke with them and play rough and tumble. But you must make sure that they do not use rude words or act defiantly when talking to you. Tell your children, “I am your mother and I like spending time with you. I will not be able to do anything with you when you use words that are hurtful and not endearing.”

Make time for family meetings to deal with the ups and downs in relationships. Children can learn a great deal from such meetings when people talk things over instead of using name-calling or talking rudely to one another. This is also a time for parents and children to listen to one another.

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