Parenting is such a delicate dance of being the boss, while remaining loving, and not killing the spirit of your child; especially when you have a strong willed, fiery personality, kid. When Brianna was little, like really little, not even two, she stomped around, fiercely independent, and incredibly strong willed. In a crowd of adults, all busy being grown up, chatting to one another about mature topics, Brianna being the only baby in family at that time, was bored, and became frustrated with the lack of attention she was getting from the room. Finally, she spoke up quite loudly, teeny tiny baby index finger crooked, and said; “LISTEN ME, I’M TALKING YA.”
The entire room fell silent. The hush lasted what seemed like forever, until we collectively burst into laughter, and almost created a monster, as she said it over and over again for the next half hour, or so. It was at that moment when Yannick and I officially got just how strong willed our eldest daughter was. Our parenting of her changed from that day forward. Her bossing an entire room of adults around brought to our consciousnesses that we didn’t have a child who had difficulty sleeping. No. We were dealing with a child who simply did NOT want to sleep. This wasn’t a kid who wasn’t hungry, this was a kid who only wanted to eat what she wanted to eat. For us, at the tender age of twenty-one the light bulb had finally gone off. We finally understood just how confident, strong willed, and ballsy our daughter was. The trick was, how to parent/guide her in order to not squish this strength, but train her how to direct that energy positively. From that day forward we got much tougher on her, in the areas of sleep, eating and how to communicate with others. Up until that “aha” moment, Yannick and I were truly going “hmmm” each and every day trying to figure out what were we doing wrong with Brianna. After that day in my grandmother’s living room, the game changed, and we were able to get out in front of her cheeky attitude and help parent her to use it respectfully.
Wendy, by the sounds of it, you might have let your daughters “cheek” go unchecked for too long. A sarcastic twelve year old, who knows when to fold em, and dial back the sauciness can often be a funny lighthearted child, who can bring joy, and laughter to any situation. Also sarcastic children, in my experience have great intelligence, think fast on their feet, and are quite confident. This to me isn’t a problem. IF your child has strong clear boundaries of who they can be sarcastic with, and more importantly a keen understanding of appropriate or inappropriate times to be sarcastic.
But, based on the fact that you messaged me asking for “help” I would say that you’re daughter isn’t sarcastic in this way. The reason I also think she’s not just a super witty kid, practicing her stand up on you, is by the way you attached “attitude” to her sarcastic nature. In my opinion, it seems to me that you labeling her as sarcastic is really just a politically correct way of deflecting what your daughter truly is, which is disrespectful. Mikaela our youngest is incredibly sarcastic, always has been. But she is NOT disrespectful, and when she is, she gets busted big time. In fact, come to think of it, all our girls have sharp wit, a boldness with their humour, that can certainly come across as sarcastic, but not one of them is in the habit of being disrespectful. Which might have more to do with the fact that disrespect was never, ever tolerated in our home.
Notice how I used the word “habit” up above. This is an important thing to take note of. Disrespect/attitude is a habit children get into when they are allowed to get into it. In my book; How To Raise Your Kid Without Losing Your Cool, I say this in every single chapter. Parenting is about being the parent. About giving clear cut standards which you want your child to adhere to. This is key to living in harmony, peace, and joy. Our children are meant to be our greatest joy, and they cannot be if they’re running around being little assholes all over the place. If your child is a asshole kind of person, that is your fault. I also say this in my book, A LOT. It’s not your kids fault they have bad attitude, and are disrespectful. It is your fault. You parented them that way. Which, when you think about this, it is actually a very cool, position of power to come from. I mean, if you raised them this way, then guess what? You can also be the person who turns them around.
How do I do that you wonder? She’s twelve.
You do it like this. First thing first, you chat with your parenting partner, and tell them that you believe that you both fucked up by allowing “Susie” to grown into a disrespectful, attitude riddled young person. Then you tell them that you want to have a meeting with “Susie” to apologize to her for allowing her to believe that behaving this way was cool. Because you realize now, that it isn’t. Then you sit “Susie” down, and you start out by saying; “I have something I want to apologize to you about. I realize that I’ve allowed you to grow up believing that your attitude and sarcasm was okay, but it is not okay. I want us to have a loving relationship built on mutual respect, and I want us to end up liking one another. I’m afraid if I keep allowing you to treat me, and others in this way, neither of us will end up liking one another very much. For this I’m sorry. But the good news is I’m going to change that. From now on every time you’re disrespectful _______ will happen.”
Just what is BLANK? It is whatever you and your parenting partner decide that something is. Maybe she has a cell phone, tell her every time she gives you attitude she loses it for an hour. Or maybe she has a laptop, or she likes to play video games, whatever it might be that she loves, and has free reign with, you explain to her that this will be a privileged lost each time she goes of on an attitude sarcasm bender.
The tough part will be, you actually seeing it through. You see, kids don’t like to be told what to do, especially when they’ve had years of being allowed to do whatever they want in certain areas of their lives. For the first week you’re going to be at war with her, and it might be hell on earth, and you might want to throw in the towel, and allow it go to back to what it was like before. Because let’s be frank, being unhappy with your kid is way simpler than being at war with them. Even I know that. But you must trust me on this Wendy. All children want to have rules. Every kid wants to know that they are NOT in charge, that’s a lot of pressure on a young person, to think that they’re the boss of their parents. Kids want to be kids. They don’t want to be their own bosses, they want you to do the heavy lifting, so it’s time you started doing it. Push through, you will win the war. But the only way you’re going to do that, is if you stand firm and let her know that you were wrong in allowing her to believe that this was a cool way to be, and that you’re sorry for that.
When you’re done telling her that, for the love of God tell her to clean her f’n room!
Good luck! I’m rooting for you!