The problem: My child has a bad attitude and doesn’t treat me with respect.

Consider what you mean by respect.

Try this: Are you worried that your child isn’t learning to be considerate? Could your child be expressing anger through disrespectful comments? Do you think they’ve learned this behavior from TV shows or peers? Reflect on what bothers you about your child’s behavior before you try to fix it.

Try this: Focus on feelings instead of behavior. In a neutral, non-accusatory tone, share how your child’s behavior makes you feel. Ask your child to think about how they would feel if you acted that way.

You may be surprised.

Avoid this: A lot of things can trigger a bout of sass. Your child could be imitating older kids’ behavior. It’s even possible they’re imitating your behavior. Could be your child feels they need to break away from you and establish their independence. Don’t draw conclusions until you’ve played detective.

Tell your child what you expect in positive terms.

Say this:

  • “I’d like you to look me in the eye, so I know you’re listening.”
  • “Please sit up and put your feet on the ground, not on the table.”

Don’t try to out sass or threaten your child.

Don’t say:

  • “Thanks a lot!”
  • “Don’t give me that ‘tude! You know what happens to spoiled little dirt clods who disrespect their elders? Ha ha ha, you don’t wanna know.”



Respect should be about human decency, not authority or power. Make sure you’re giving your child the same kind of respect you expect from them. A polite voice. Consideration. Avoid sarcasm, threats, and name calling.

Children develop attitudes for many reasons, but experts believe that it’s often a way to get attention from adults. Why might your child want attention? What might be a positive way of giving your child what they need without allowing them to be rude to you?

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