Your instinctive response may be to say, “How dare you speak to me that way!” While thinking to yourself, “After everything I’ve sacrificed for you???”
However, your child probably doesn’t think he owes you for everything you’ve sacrificed for him. He’s a kid, and right now, the world is pretty much revolving around him.
His hurtful words are not really about you at all. Kids talk like this when they have a problem and no way to resolve it. They may be dealing with an issue at school, in sports, or with friends. And his frustration is taken out on you instead of the problem. Some kids also say mean things to get their way, hoping that you’ll feel bad enough to give in.
When your child lashes out with words, handle the situation with these guidelines:
Don’t lash back. Responding harshly never solves the problem and instead shows your child that the way to handle conflict is to lash out.
Stay away from reasoning in the heat of emotions. Lecturing or reasoning will most likely go in one ear and out the other when your child is upset. Wait until your child is calm and ready to listen.
Stay calm. Take a deep breath and think about what you should say. My dad used to send me to my room for 30 minutes to “think about what I’d done.” I learned when I grew up that he really did that to give himself time to calm down so he would not say something he regretted. Sometimes parents need to take a time-out too.
Keep your verbal response matter-of-fact. If your child insults you, keep your voice level. Here are some suggestions for what you might say:
- I’m sorry you feel that way, but you’re still responsible for cleaning your room.
- Talking that way won’t get you the extra video game time you want.
- You don’t hate me, you just don’t like what I am saying. That’s not the same thing. I love you!
- I’m sorry you feel that way.
- When you talk like that, it makes me feel bad. If you have something to say, tell me without insulting me.
- You’re allowed to be mad at me; but you’re not allowed to hit your sister.
- I know you’re angry, but that does not mean you can talk to me that way.
- I know you are mad right now, so we will talk about this when you are calmed down.
Responding in these ways will gently challenge your child’s behavior and let him know that his hurtful words will not solve the problem at hand.
Janis B. Meredith, sports mom and coach’s wife, writes a sports parenting blog called JBM Thinks. She authored the Sports Parenting Survival Guide Series and has recently launched a podcasting series for sports parents.You can also find her on Facebook , Twitter and Youtube.