The Boy is 10, going on 21, and we have had a few issues lately with attitude. I have called him out for giving me attitude, and he doesn’t understand the term – he thinks I am correcting him for using bad words. I tried to explain that sometimes it isn’t the words you use, but how you use them, but I don’t think he has made the connection. If he doesn’t understand how his behavior is less than desirable, how do I get him to correct it?
I think the first important thing to do, is to make sure that respectful behavior and compliance is rewarded. There are times when The Boy decides to comply and talks himself through doing something that isn’t his first choice by repeating a script-like declaration of why he is doing it. One of his preoccupations is being first: being first in any line at school, being the first kid to morning and afternoon daycare, etc. On the rare morning when we are not first to daycare, he usually erupts into a meltdown, but on even more rare occasions, he will talk himself through it. “Sometimes I have to let the younger kids be first, because I am older, and they need to be first sometimes because they are little.” And I congratulate him on his profound insight, and go on and on about what a gallant thing to do, and won’t the other littler kids be so appreciative, and on, and on. I am usually so stunned that he has talked himself through a potentially disastrous event that being effusive in my praise is pretty natural.
Second, I need to do a better job of modeling appropriate ways of talking to adults, and not trying to do it in the thick of the misunderstanding. In the quiet times, I need to chat with him about the words and phrases that are best to use when an adult asks you to do something and you may not want to do it. I know I forget sometimes that communication doesn’t come easily to The Boy, and that I have to teach him these things. And it is best taught through modeling, social stories, and consistent, quiet discussion.
Finally, and this is something that I haven’t done yet, I need to teach him some negotiating skills. He is now a tween, and he will need these skills when dealing with peers and adults. This would be a great addition to the discussions about how to talk respectfully to adults, and then doing some role play with positive results to show him how negotiating can give him a better chance of getting something he wants (or getting out of something he doesn’t want to do!).
Have you dealt with attitude from your tween? How have you dealt with it?