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Jennifer, School Psychologist
Category: Parenting
Satisfied Customers: 397
Experience:  Collaborative parent consultation on everything from modifying behavior to child development.
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I am a stay-at-home mom with a six-year-old daughter and a

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I am a stay-at-home mom with a six-year-old daughter and a 3 1/2 year old son. My daughter has back-talked me since she could speak sentences. When she talks to me she sounds like a teenager. Her tone of voice has "attitude." She often says rude and mean things. It really makes me angry, and I find it hard to not yell at her. My pediatrician recommended ignoring the behavior and stating that I "wouldn't listen to what she has to say until she could say it in a respectful tone." I've tried that, but it makes her angrier and louder. I've tried telling her in a calm manner that it is disrespectful and not nice. I've tried taking away priveledges, like playdates or t.v. I've tried taking away toys. I've tried sending her to her room. I feel like I am out of resources to handle something that really gets to me. I make the mistake of saying things that I feel may hurt her, like "you really make me feel bad," etc. How can I handle this situation without damaging her self esteem?
Submitted: 6 years ago.
Category: Parenting
Expert:  Jennifer replied 6 years ago.
Hello and thanks for using!

You're on the right track with your pediatrician's advice -- ignoring the behavior will help to diminish it. My guess, however, is that telling her this when she's already angry rarely works!

Try this... At a time when she's NOT angry, have a talk with her about the difference between "nice" and "not nice" words (or "respectful" & "disrespectful" -- whatever you want to call it). Give examples of nice exchanges using magic words and a kind tone of voice. Then give examples of not nice -- bad attitude, tone of voice, sarcasm, etc. You both need to give examples to make sure she truly understands.

Next say this... "We're practicing this because from now on I can only hear nice words." The next time she responds negatively, give one gentle reminder along the lines of, "I love you and I'd like to help you get what you want, but I only hear nice words." Then you literally pretend like you don't hear anything. She'll catch on.

This is a strategy from a great parenting / teaching philosophy called Love & Logic. You could check out the website for more ideas like this ( and may want to check your library for a specific book geared toward working with toddlers / preschoolers (Love and Logic: The Early Years). I recommend the tactics from this approach often to families I work with and use it with my own toddler as well. I wish you the best of luck!
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