How to Respond When Your Child is Rude

Dear Kid Whisperer,

What are some ways to help my 10-year-old with voice tone? He is very rude to people. I’ve tried “I’m sorry, but I don’t respond to unkind voices” and it just frustrates him. He does it at home and school. I am a teacher, which makes this even more frustrating to me. -Maria, San Luis Obispo


I want to answer your question in two ways. First, I want to challenge part of the premise of your question because I think you could make a paradigm shift that will change your life, especially since you are a teacher. Second, I want to give you something that will allow you to set and enforce limits with your kid using love and empathy. The first part will be totally unhelpful without the second part.

First, your kid getting frustrated is awesome and totally necessary if he is going to change his behavior. Getting frustrated or even angry or belligerent is a sign that you are doing the right thing, or at least it shows that you are getting warm, and when you say, “I’m sorry, but I don’t respond to unkind voices”, you are getting very, very warm. In fact, you are burning up. I will give you the perfect words in a moment, but the place where you went wrong was that you thought him getting upset was a sign that what you did was wrong. It wasn’t.

I’m going to show you now how I would deal with your kid in the most efficient and effective way possible. Notice that I don’t counsel, lecture, coddle, threaten, or intimidate him. I simply set and enforce a limit. This will train your kid for how you expect him to act without you having to get frustrated or use more energy than you have to. As a parent and teacher, you have no energy to spare.

Kid: (in the sarcastic, nasty tone described) The food you prepared tastes like warm garbage. Why did you make this again when I said that it was not up to my exacting standards?

Kid Whisperer: (while eating happily and without eye contact) I talk to people who use nice words.

Kid: (the tone continues) What!?! What are you talking about!?! You are ridiculous. You know nothing about what I am going through and all the pressure I am under!!!!

Kid Whisperer: Who do I talk to?

Kid: (the tone continues to continue) This is ridiculous and will not stand! I am frustrated, and you know how I feel about being frustrated! That’s right! I don’t enjoy it! So, good luck having that on your conscience! You did something that I did not enjoy! How’s that feel, stupid?

Kid Whisperer: Who do I talk to?

Kid: I hate you.

Kid Whisperer: Oh, drat. I think I will eat my food in my room while watching my show. It’s more pleasant in there. I will have to do something about the way you are speaking to me sometime in the future. Don’t let that ruin your day, though.

Kid Whisperer has dinner in bed with his door locked. Later Kid will be informed that he will be given the opportunity to practice using kind words to Kid Whisperer. Until he has shown Kid Whisperer that he can consistently use kind words, Kid will not be allowed to go out into the world unless he is going to school. Once he shows that he is an expert at not acting like a jerk, he can regain full citizenship in the world.