How to Discipline Kids: Giving Lip, Part I

There isn’t a child on earth who hasn’t given lip. Or back talked and made nasty remarks at you, their parent.

Developmentally speaking, children mostly use this language (or the accompanying tone of voice) as part of their separation from you.VanGogh_Bedroom_Arles1 At the time, they have a strong reaction to something, or feel peevish or mean–and punching a pillow isn’t going to make them feel better. They lash out at someone close to them and usually it’s someone they trust.

It’s important to understand as much as possible about your child’s context when she gives lip. However, effective discipline means that you must follow through every single time.

Imagine that your fifth grader daughter talks back when you ask her to help with something:

“No! That’s stupid. You can’t make me! I hate you!” Her nasty sneer gives way to angry belligerence.

What do you say and do? Don’t let it pass. Drop everything and address it calmly whether you’re in public or private.

“That talk and tone is unacceptable in our family. You know that. Leave your [phone or electronic device] on the table here and go to your room.” Let her stomp away and slam her door.

Addressing lip in this concrete way does several things:

  1. You address it immediately and calmly. There are no exceptions.
  2. You take away something of value immediately, like electronic devices. This is better than “no TV for a week,” or ”You’re not going with your friends to…” because you are dealing with it right away, and moving on.
  3. You direct her to a place where she can cool down and so you can calm down. Let her stomp and slam to get some of the anger out.

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