I’m sure other blog readers may have some great advice on this one, but mine, which you probably have already tried, is to focus on the positive. Make a valiant effort to notice anything, and I mean anything positive. How she spoke to her brother, how she cleared her plate after dinner, how she works at those extracurricular activities, how she looked at an adult in the eye. Anything you can point out when you’re alone together or, even better, in front of others.
Kids seek attention, any way they can get it. If it’s only negative attention they can get, they’ll still take it. They crave it. So if the things they’re doing makes their parents notice, bring it on!
So, if you can, completely ignore the sassy bully stuff. Don’t give it the time of day. Unless of course, it is really hurting someone, and in that case I think it’s time to be a “durable object.” By this I mean don’t let your anger or emotions get involved. You are just an object helping her follow through with a consequence (one that you two have worked out together beforehand). With absolutely no emotion, let her know that that isn’t acceptable and calmly tell her to go to her room (or whatever you two have figured out) until she is ready to come out with a good attitude. This is so hard. I know because I’ve been there and when there’s smoke coming out of my ears and I am so incredibly angry it feels like you want to just explode. But exploding doesn’t do much for the kid who’s in trouble, just makes them think maybe they should do that when they’re mad too.
I know this sounds simplistic, but I think it’s easy to threaten and take things away (and when we do, we really do need to follow through on that), but really so much more effective to dwell on any positive things that are happening and it will naturally drown out all the negative behavior.
Maybe:) Worth a shot.
More ways to spill out positive affirmation:
Our friends do “Hip Hip Hoorays” during their family nights, where one of the parents goes through each child and tells one positive wonderful thing they did that week. Then the whole family joins together to yell, “hip, hip, hooray!” before the parent moves on to the next child. My kids think this is pretty awesome when we happen to be with them.
We also do our little tradition of writing talents on our kids’ fingertips to give some positive affirmation around here. We write the first letter a specific thing they are great at (perhaps “d” for doing the dishes) on one finger and explain why we love it. Then move on to the next finger. (Pictures and better explanation about this back HERE.)
I would also highly recommend reading “How to Talk so Kids will Listen, and Listen so Kids will Talk.” (HERE) It is a powerful book. It has helped me parent in countless ways over the years since I first read it. In fact, I just pulled it out to read again the other day because I need a refresher. It is that good.
Write them a personal note or text. I learned so much from the mother character as we listened to Little Women this summer. She is my hero! One thing that really stuck out to me is when she wrote Jo a little private note of praise and encouragement. I thought to myself, why don’t I do that more!? So I started. Whether it’s just a random text or a real, live hand-written note about what I love about a particular child, it makes a difference in the way they view themselves. And I love looking for things to praise…makes me appreciate them that much more.
I know there are times when kids need some negative consequences. I know there are times privileges need to be taken away. But I think all the positive affirmation we can give comes first. You’re right, kids need self-esteem. The whole world tries to take it from them sometimes it seems, and if we can create a safe place in our families where kids can feel unconditionally loved and accepted because the good things they do get noticed, I really do think it has the power to wash out a lot of the acting out and negative behavior.