You don’t have to put up with rude behaviour from your child, says Ashley Jay, an educational psychologist in private practice and co-owner of the Norwood Therapy Centre in Johannesburg, but be careful about how you react, because your response can either improve or weaken your relationship with him. “Be too lenient, and the cheekiness could lead to more worrisome behaviour. Be too strict, and your child could feel he can’t express himself, which will lead to a communication shutdown,” says Ashley.
She suggests the following tips to handle cheeky behaviour:
Keep your composure
Your child is probably feeling some intense emotions already, so if you don’t keep your reaction as mild as possible, an unhelpful power struggle might ensue. If you’re in public, wait until you get in the car or make it home before continuing the conversation.
Let your child know that all feelings are acceptable
It’s important for your child to know he’ll never get into trouble for feeling a certain way. However, not all behaviour or how they express their feelings is acceptable, so be explicit about what is and isn’t OK.
Determine the consequences
Let your child know there will be consequences if they cross the line. These could include losing certain privileges or getting additional chores. You should let him know about these consequences ahead of time so he won’t be caught by surprise when he is punished. Most importantly, follow through. Being consistent and sticking to the rules is the only way to show you mean what you say.
Model your expectations
You can’t expect your child to learn from you if you don’t model the desired behaviour you expect from him. If your five-year-old hears you using a nasty tone when speaking to your spouse, he will learn it’s OK to treat others (including you) in a similar manner.
Find out what the root cause is
Rude behaviour or cheekiness isn’t always a true expression of your child’s feelings, and the reason might be rooted in something unrelated to you. Your child could be having problems with a friend at school and be taking it out on you, because you’re a soft target.
Praise polite behaviour
Pay extra attention when your child is exhibiting positive behaviours rather than negative ones. When your kid talks and expresses himself in a respectful manner, show your approval. Tell him, “I really like the way you waited your turn to speak.” This will make him feel good and help him realise that Mom and Dad also notice good things.