“No, YOU’RE dumb!”
“Well, you’re a loser!”
“I know you are, but what am I?”
“You’re a butthead!”
Name-calling between children is a challenge for many families. Once kids get on a roll of slinging names back and forth it can seem like an express train to a sibling meltdown. But it doesn’t have to be that way! You can help your kids turn their angry words into an opportunity to connect and build even stronger relationships.
When kids become teens, they start acting like they don’t need us. If we don’t understand why they’re doing this, and figure out ways to respond gracefully, we risk building resentment in the relationship.
It helps to understand that teens who push us away may be merely expressing a normal developmental stage in the best way they know how. After all, it’s their job to become their own person, and become more responsible for their lives. When parents find ways to keep love alive, even during this sometimes tense stage of life, they have their best shot at helping their kids launch confidently in just a few years.
Check out this video (made in partnership with Family Life Canada) to learn more.
Jesus was defiant.
He defied Satan’s temptation. He defied the religious structures of the day. He defied legalism. He even defied death.
One of our problems as parents is that we treat our kids’ defiance as if it is entirely bad. We then seek to make it go away – sometimes at all costs.
What if instead of a thinking of defiance as a problem we saw it as evidence of a gift God put in our children, coming out in unrefined, selfish, or sinful ways?
After all, it takes boldness, conviction, strength of will, and a plan to be defiant.
What if our job was not to make defiance go away, but to affirm and re-purpose those talents after the pattern of Jesus’ defiance?
Apply It Now
“I hate you!” There are certainly plenty of parents who have heard those disrespectful words.
Some parents are deeply hurt (“I can’t believe you would say that, after all I do…”) while others get intensely angry (“It’s not okay to talk to me like that!”). Parents often feel attacked and unsure about how to respond.
A popular parenting approach suggests when a child says “I hate you” or a similar comment, that parents respond with “Aren’t you glad I don’t believe that?” At first glance this may seem like a clever, calm way to respond, but it also is pretty condescending, communicating a message that, “When you’re upset, you are a liar” or “Your thoughts and feelings are unimportant, even invalid to me.”
So how can we really get to the root of the issue when our kids yell that they hate us?
Do you ever feel like your family is under the microscope at holiday gatherings?
Your lively kids – in unfamiliar places, without their usual toys – often reflect the stress all around them, which can mean they get loud, obnoxious, and argumentative. The icy stares or sidelong glances from relatives — especially your parents — can communicate, “That is soooo disrespectful, and clearly needs some firm discipline.”
You may even get some direct comments like, “Aren’t you going to deal with that?” or, “You really shouldn’t tolerate that disrespect!”
You know that you are learning more graceful, wisdom-building ways to parent and you want to stay the course, but you don’t know how to respond without sounding disrespectful to your parents. You may even second guess yourself and get harsh or firm in unnatural ways with your kids, just to avoid the criticism.
So what can you do?
In my role as a parenting speaker I do a lot of role plays with people in the audience. Though I had seen a lot of yelling, whining, and laughter from these role plays, I had never seen tears — but recently that changed.
How do I get my 7-year-old son to stop talking back to everything we say? He is always right and we are always wrong! … We try discipline, taking away some of his toys, etc. but nothing seems to work. Any suggestions would be GREATLY appreciated!
Parents get justifiably exasperated with incessant backtalk, but the typical reflexive response — punishing backtalk — is like putting fertilizer on it.
Recently we received this question from Michelle:
I am struggling with a tween who often says no to my requests. She is a good girl most of the time, but she will be disrespectful to me and I have no idea what appropriate/related consequences to give her when she tells me “no” and then in essence dismisses me by looking back down at her book, ipod, etc. I try to remain calm but when I tell her this is a warning and that she will have a consequence for not obeying, she will look at me and ask what it is. And normally say, “oh well, no big deal” and still not obey me. I also realize that hormones are playing a part in her behavior but she cannot say no to me when I ask her to do something. HELP!!! Normally she will apologize later that night when we are praying together but she still didn’t do whatever I asked.
It was a Sunday evening. I was emotionally and physically done for the day and looking forward to a quiet house. Suddenly I overheard squabbling about who was the rightful owner of a large stuffed panda bear.
My engagement with sibling conflict has often aggravated my son’s anger: he feels criticized by my effort to protect his younger sister. I should have known better than to get involved in this panda bear affair, especially when I was already a little bit cranky! But I was tired and I just wanted them to go to bed so I could have a little peace and quiet to start my week.
Sometimes it takes a while for parents to change in ways that lead to deeper respect from their kids. Sometimes it can happen fast. When Dan attended our weekend workshop he saw an immediate change by practicing what we call a “do-over.” Here’s his report:
An hour before we left for your seminar I was getting ready to go. Our 12-year-old son Will was sitting on the steps. He asked why we needed to go to the seminar. I explained that his mom and I were going so we could learn to control some of the chaos in our household. His reply was, “If you think that’s going to work, you’re retarded!”