Angry boy arms crossedA Cure for the Common Bad Attitude

Nothing in parenting remains the same from day to day—nothing except the presence of feelings! Feelings are part of life, part of being a child, and definitely part of parenting. 

Because your child is growing quickly, her feelings change from one moment to the next. That means your parenting solutions have to change too.

First Time Experiences

Every day your child is having what I call “first time experiences.” She finds herself in new situations with no real experience or wisdom to deal with them. She isn’t being “bad,” she just isn’t sure what to do. She’s bound to make mistakes. All she knows is she’s being chastised for doing something she doesn’t know how to do correctly and that frustrates her and causes big feelings. 

Today’s parents are having first time experiences, too. They’ve never parented this child in this situation before. Parents are also dealing with the fast pace of technology. Living at warp speed can cause you to feel overwhelmed from the minute you get up to the minute you go to sleep. Those two factors can cause frustration and big feelings, too. 

When both parent and child are frustrated and filled with big feelings, reactions occur. Both can resort to yelling, punishing and threats to try to manage those feelings. 

I know you’ve felt it, the longing for a better way to handle situations like these. You intuitively know there is one, but you don’t have time to search for it. My tip today is a place to start, a place to go to when you find yourself headed toward reacting with anger to life’s daily pressure, to big feelings, or to your child’s behavior.

The Root of Misbehavior

Many parents deal with back talk, stomping feet, and constant arguing. I’m not sure there’s just one answer that works for all children, of all ages, but this tip is a good place to begin.

When a child misbehaves or cops an attitude, most parents tend to focus on the misbehavior, foot stomping, arguing or attitude, only. But those things are actually the end result. 

What parents have forgotten is each bit of misbehavior or attitude has its roots in feelings that have gone unnoticed, unchecked, unacknowledged. Unexpressed feelings grow and grow until they blossom into misbehavior or an attitude. So what’s a parent to do?

Rewinding the Video

A good place to begin is to “rewind the video” so to speak.  No matter what’s happened.

You’ll need to take a breath and pretend that you’ve rewound the video to the beginning of the situation the place where the feelings went unnoticed. Now begin asking your child some questions about what she was feeling at the beginning of the situation, before the incident occurred. The questions need to be asked in a genuine, loving and calm way, so the child will respond. The parent then needs to be silent and wait for the child to answer.

When a child is asked a question followed by silence, the pressure for someone to speak fills the room. If you say anything you run the risk of igniting a reaction. However, if you remain silent the feelings that went unexpressed, that led to the misbehavior, arguing etc. usually comes rolling out.

Here are some questions to get you started.

“What didn’t you say that you wanted too?”

“What was your heart feeling?”  

“What made you mad?”

“What didn’t you tell anyone?”

Because you now know that your child is simply having a first time experience, you’ll find you’re more willing to teach what needs to be learned about the situation, rather than automatically yelling, punishing or threatening. 

There’s another benefit to being silent after you’ve asked a question, too. Silence tends to calm you down, which helps neutralize any frustration or reactions you were about to have.

In this fast-paced world where things change from one minute to the next, this is a tip that will help resolve feelings—even if the feelings change five times during the conversation.

Sharon Silver is the author of Stop Reacting and Start Responding and The Authentic Parent Series. Go to to download two free chapters from her book and learn about other Proactive Parenting programs. Find Sharon on Twitter and Facebook.


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