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Sassy Back Talking or Enlightened Discourse?


     How far is too far?  When your son or daughter disagrees with you, which response is acceptable?  A) raising their voice at you, B) giving a sarcastic remark, C) questioning your judgment or D) all of the above.  If you are like most parents, you have probably received one or all of these responses from your child.

     But where did it come from?  A generation ago, these responses would have been frowned on and two generations ago, the same response would have probably been followed by a sharp slap.  But today, it's not hard to find parents being verbally assaulted by their own children even out in public.  But are the parents the ones to blame?  Are they the ones condoning this behavior or is there something else?


     We want our children to question things and to think for themselves, but have we ever taught them how to disagree without being disagreeable?  It can be difficult as parents to remember to talk WITH our children and not AT them.  Transitioning from children to youth is probably as hard for parents as it is for the kids.


     So where do they get this from?  It would be easy to blame it on their school friends, but it's even happening in families who school at home.  So where then?  If you were to critically review some of the entertainment choices available to our youth, you'll find a growing trend in our nation's comedy towards sarcasm.  Most television shows and movies portray parents and those in authority as stupid, idiotic and out of touch whereas the youth are shown as smart, insightful and in the "know".  Even if you are proactive about the entertainment choices allowed in your home, the ideas are still out there plastered on billboards, displayed in slick magazines and all over the internet.


     So what does a parent do when their children are surrounded by things that influence this type of behavior?  Talk about it.  Most parents think if they ignore the bad behavior it will just go away.  Not true.  Johnson County and even Franklin County now offer mental health programs for parents to help them work with youth who have become more difficult to control.  They recommend that the best way to tackle the problem of growing disrespectful language is to bring it up.  Talking to your tween or teen when it happens and telling them when they've crossed the line for you is the first step.  Give them specifics about what didn't come across right and an example of how it could have been done better.  If the situation is beyond talking and consequences, then professional help might be needed.


     As we all know, habits are hard to break.  When children are allowed to speak to their parents disrespectfully, it will lead to that same speak to teachers, coaches and others in authority.  Loving our children can be very hard during these growing up years, but if we want what's best for them, we need to speak up.


Nancy Ball, Johnson County Family Examiner

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