Parenting Tips: How to Stop the Attitude Right Now

By Greg Baer M.D.

February 12, 2024

"A mother wrote and said,

“I went to sleep listening to the Training, about how we need to address things with our kids immediately.

"We need to stop everything and talk through their unloving or irresponsible behaviors.”

Mom, you’re a genius, and a brave and dedicated one. Going to sleep listening to how to be better parents?

Remarkable, and yet what better could we do with our time? 

Now, about stopping everything to love and teach. All day parents tend to pass by these perfect teaching moments, where they could use the child’s behavior RIGHT THEN to teach principles that can’t be taught as effectively if we wait.

I suggest that we consider three things about missing these precious teaching moments.

  1. First, WHY DO parents miss these moments? Because they’re difficult. No parent wants to confront a child when they KNOW the child is going to give them the stinkeye—that look of anger and disgust that SCREAMS “I don’t love you,” or even “I hate you.” No parent wants to see that expression.
  2. BUT, by waiting for a “better time” or just “hoping it will go away,” the parents make the behavior MORE likely to happen again, and almost no parents are aware of this. Children are fairly binary: yes or no, black or white, not so much tuned in to nuances. So, if you let any time pass after the moment of bad behavior without doing something, your child hears “It’s okay.” Not kidding.
  3. If parents wait to talk about behaviors—if YOU wait—the moment is gone. If you wait an hour and then say to a child, “Do you remember when you were teasing your brother?” you lose. You get that “I left my brain under my pillow” look. Then they say stuff like, “What do you mean?” or just “What?”

This mom continues, “I like how you said, ‘Anything that doesn’t contribute to family happiness, we stop and we talk about it.’ And you said, ‘If you don’t follow family RULES, you don’t get the benefits of family PRIVILEGES.’ That helps me with the courage to speak up immediately.”

Hard for them to argue about the link between responsibility and privileges without looking foolish. They get SO much as a result of living in your family, and now they’re learning that your family operates by rules they need to follow.

Mom says: "Let me give you an example. My teenage son wanted to talk to me about why we’d taken his phone away. The first five words out of his mouth already had attitude, so I stopped him right then and said, 'How are you talking to me right now?'

"He said, “Whaddya mean?” with more attitude.

"I said, “Just like that. You’re talking to me like I’m one of your punk friends you can bully with your tone. And the look you just gave me said this: 'I wish she would shut up.'

"He started to stumble with a response, and I said, 'Nope, no excuses. You’re staying right there—in that one spot—until you can tell me sincerely and with real humility—how you’re being disrespectful, even snotty.'

"I wasn’t the least bit angry, just direct and confident. I said I’d be back in ten minutes, and when I returned, the smirk on his face was gone. He admitted that he was being snotty. We really had a great moment, and it was all because I stopped him immediately when he had attitude. And because I was calm."

Bless you. You’re a brave and determined Mom. Every time your son has a tone, unconsciously he feels that he’s won a victory over you. That makes it even more difficult to try to teach him the next time. But when you stop him immediately—about his tone or about his entitlement without responsibility—you take away his hollow victory, loving and teaching him instead. Nice.

Mom continued: "And today my daughter, Jules, said her job with the dishes was done, so I randomly pulled out one of the dishes, and immediately she started with the attitude. She said, 'What?! What’s wrong?' I put up my hand and said, 'Stop right there. I told you that we weren’t going to do anything in this family anymore if it didn’t lead to happiness. So, were you about to be loving or responsible?' She hung her head and said, 'No.' I was feeling so powerful and calm, so she followed right along. It was great. I showed her some dirty places on a couple of dishes and asked her what she was seeing.

"She started to make an excuse, and immediately I said, 'Are you being responsible, or are you making excuses?' She calmed right down, even when I said she’d have to wash the entire stack of dishes over again.

Parents, grab the moments when they happen. Especially with attitude, because those moments can be brief, and our kids need us to use them.

Want to learn more?

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About the author 

Greg Baer, M.D.

I am the founder of The Real Love® Company, Inc, a non-profit organization. Following the sale of my successful ophthalmology practice I have dedicated the past 25 years to teaching people a remarkable process that replaces all of life's "crazy" with peace, confidence and meaning in various aspects of their personal lives, including parenting, marriages, the workplace and more.

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