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3 Tweaks to De-sass Sassy Kids

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“Why do you always tell us what to do like we are servants?” I had just asked my son to unload the dishwasher. When I feel like I’m surrounded by sassy kids slinging smart aleck comments, it is so tempting snap back with a new level of sass. While every child will experiment with the boundaries of authority, the only thing we can control is how we respond when it happens.

Have you felt defeated when your son or daughter has come back at you with sass? Or worse, when they’ve done it to another adult. Is their sweet demeanor gone for good? What’s going on behind all those sharp comebacks? Time to pause and try these 3 tweaks that have helped our kids go from sass to class.

Define what “sassy” means.

The first time I called my daughter out on being sassy, she had no idea what it even meant. I tried explaining it to her by replaying the conversation. I think she understood it to a degree, but she was still in a defensive posture. What really worked was watching kids’ TV shows with her and calling others out on their sass.

Kids’ TV shows are a goldmine for examples of sassy kids. When a child would respond to a parent in a smart aleck way, I would point it out. This helped my kids learn the type of response I don’t like without feeling personally attacked- which also meant they weren’t armed with any defensive tactics. It also helped me reevaluate the shows I was letting them watch and learn from.

Give them a new script.

After teaching my sassy kids what I don’t want to hear, I had to teach my kids what I do want to hear by giving them a new vocabulary and modeling a better tone. Giving my kids a different script laid out what type of response is acceptable. I would respond to their sass with something like, “A more respectful way to ask me a question about something I’ve asked you to do is to say ‘Yes ma’am. May I ask a question?”

Consistently giving my kids the words that I prefer they use has given them an alternative to their sassy comments. Sometimes, all I have to do is give them the mom-look and they quickly repeat themselves in a more respectful manner using words from the new script.

Resist the urge to react.

When our kids give a sassy attitude, moms have to resist the urge to roll our eyes, sling back some sass, or Z-snap with an “Oh no you didn’t.” {TWEET THIS} There are many times that my kids will say something sassy because they’re looking for attention. When I suspect this, I’ll ask them, “Do you want my attention? If you want some time with me, you only need to ask. I’d rather give you positive attention than negative, and I think you would rather have that too.”

This usually disarms them and gives them space to be honest and go about it a different way. When it comes down to it, I want my kids to know they can be open with me without having to be disrespectful to get my attention.

What words can you give your kids as an alternative to their sassy comebacks?


“What are two ways to show grown-ups respect?”

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