What To Do When Your Kid Has a Bad Attitude
It’s funny how one kid’s bad attitude can have a huge impact on your entire family. Maybe this attitude reared its ugly head as you tried to get her out the door to Grandma’s house, church, or shopping. Or, your typically happy-go-lucky kid crossed his little arms and turned up his nose at the pancakes you made this morning.
What is his deal? Or maybe YOU have had a bad attitude that turned into the whole house having a bad attitude (To be perfectly honest, that’s what usually happens around here!). Whatever your situation may be, here are five ways to change your kid’s bad attitude (or yours). The first three are preventative steps, but can certainly be used during your kid’s bad attitude. The last two are sure to help you through this situation and onto the other side.
Of course, you are always breathing – you are alive, right? But have you ever noticed that when you feel stressed out, you actually pause your breathing? You know this is happening when you feel yourself exhale (sometimes loudly or forcefully!) after a particularly stressful event has taken place. So, this first step is all about taking intentional, mindful deep breaths from your belly when a stressful situation presents itself. And do this at least three times.
It is also important to have scheduled, regular times throughout the day when you just stop and breathe mindfully. You can even set your watch to remind you to do it! Think about it like building a muscle that you need to strengthen when you don’t need it so that it can be ready to be used for when you DO need it.
2. Check Yourself
How’s your own attitude these days? Do you tend to be critical of people or situations you encounter at the grocery store while driving, or throughout your workday? Or are you generally grateful in most things, being able to see the best in others? What about when there is a big gap between what you expect and the actual behavior? Do you tend to fill it with believing the best or assuming the worst? I wonder why that is?
Remember that YOU are your child’s first and most influential teacher…so what are you teaching your children? If you recognize you’ve had a less-than-positive attitude, admit it, tell your children you realize you’ve had a bad attitude about (name it), and let them know you are going to work on it. Modeling this humble attitude will help your children own their mistakes and help them accept your corrections as well.
To “Notice” means to recognize and say out loud the behavior you are seeing to help everyone stay in the present moment. If you often think about what you should have done, or should be doing or should do next, quit “shoulding” all over yourself! Stay in the moment by noticing what actually IS happening. Simply naming what your child is doing notices it, bringing everyone to the forefront of their minds, and increasing awareness in the present moment. This may feel and sound silly at first, but it is going to make a huge difference.
Imagine your children are playing quietly with blocks in the living room. You may think, “I don’t want to mess this up. I’ll just keep quiet and pray they keep playing well with each other.” However, if they were fighting with each other and tossing blocks around the room, you’d be sure to say, maybe even a bit loudly, ”What are you doing!? What should you be doing!? You know you aren’t supposed to throw blocks! Why can’t you just play quietly together!?”
You see, you are ALREADY “noticing” things – but typically it’s the negative ones that get your attention. How would it be if your noticing sounded more like this, “Look at you guys! You’re playing together with the blocks in the living room.” Or “You threw your trash away!” Or “You found your shoes!” Or, “It seems like you don’t want to clean up right now.” You may even find yourself saying, “I am peeling the potatoes….I am boiling water…I am mashing the potatoes.”
Check out this quick Mom Minute to find out more about “noticing.”
You know how you feel when someone tries to fix you but you just want to be heard! Think about the last time life didn’t go your way. Maybe you called your best friend to tell her all about it. Being your friend, she probably didn’t say, “Just quit your job.” Instead, she probably said something like, “That sucks! I hate that this is happening to you.”
It’s the same with kids. They don’t want you to fix it. Sometimes there is no fixing it because they just have to do what you told them to do. But they do want you to empathize with them:
“You wish you could have ice cream before dinner and you can’t. That’s hard.”
“You wish you didn’t have to stop playing and go home. I wish you didn’t have to, either.”
“It’s hard when you have to do something you don’t want to do. I understand that.”
It does NOT mean you give in to them. It DOES mean you let them know you understand their feelings. That you are in this together. Breathe. Hug. Breathe. Smile. Breathe. Love. Breathe.
5. Give Choices
If your child is kicking and screaming and crying on the floor, there is NO way he can make a choice at that moment. It is simply neurologically impossible. This is when your own breathing is going to be an absolute necessity to help calm both of you. However, if she is stamping her feet, but talking – albeit negatively – you can offer two positive choices: “Do you want to wear the red shoes or the blue shoes?” She may say, “But I don’t WANT to go!” Breathe. And go back to #4 “I know you wish you didn’t have to go! I wish you didn’t have to either.” Breathe. “Do you want to wear the red shoes or the blue ones?” She may say, “NEITHER! I don’t want to go!” Breathe.
“I hear you. You wish you didn’t have to go. But you do. We both do.” Breathe. “Sometimes we have to do things we don’t want to do and that stinks. But you can do it. I will help you. Do you want to wear the red shoes or the blue ones?”
If you are wondering, “Am I supposed to just go on and on asking them to choose? What if they never choose?” The short answer is, “Yes.” The longer answer is that I want you to think about the times your kids have “worn you down” by asking for something over and over and over and over and over and….well, you get the idea! Haven’t you ever just said, “HERE! Take it and shut your mouth!!” Ok, maybe you never SAID that…but you probably thought it!
Anyhow, I am suggesting that you do the SAME thing to them…wear them down by offering the same two positive choices…over and over and over and over again until one is chosen! This will ONLY be successful if you are calm (#1 Breathe), but this is going to work for you – much to your surprise at times!
Try it out, and let me know how it goes!
Kate Fraiser is a Parent Coach with Connect Point Moms helping you create stronger relational connections with the children in your life. This starts with being aware of your own stuff so you can BE PRESENT with your children at the moment you’re in, and then knowing and using the best ways to communicate with them. For quick and helpful parenting videos, find her on Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, or Facebook.