Write me: rebecca@positive-parents.org

 A quote from The Newbie’s Guide to Positive Parenting Second Edition:

So often, children are punished for being human. Children are not allowed to have grumpy moods or bad days. We expect them to be in complete control of their emotional reactions at all times, yet how many of us can do this? Have you never yelled or slammed a door in anger? Have you never snapped at your child or spouse after a stressful day? Have you never given a hateful glare or complained about everyday frustrations? If you have never done those things, then you are certainly entitled to expect your child to be a perfect human, but for the rest of us, for all of us who sometimes slip up, we need to offer the same understanding and grace we hope is afforded to us. We all have hard days. Bad days don’t make us bad people. None of us are perfect, and we shouldn’t hold our children to a standard of perfection that we ourselves cannot attain.

This is not to say, of course, that you do not correct a disrespectful remark or a sour mood that is disrupting the peace of the home. It is our job to teach our children what is appropriate. Teach them that it’s not okay to project a bad mood on those around them. Teach them how to handle frustration, anger, fear, sadness, and disappointment. Teach them that it’s not acceptable to be rude to people. High standards are good. Hold them to a high standard! But please, hold yourself to one, too. Don’t project your bad moods. Learn how to handle your frustration, anger, fear, sadness, and disappointment. Don’t be rude to them. Set the example. We all need high standards, and do you know what else we all need?

A little grace.

You know better, but sometimes you have a bad day and you say something that isn’t nice, or you slam a door, or you yell at your kids. We aren’t robots. Sometimes life is just plain hard, and we need a break, not a lecture. We need a hug, not a scornful look. We know we did wrong, but we’re having a hard time. We need someone who understands. We need someone who still believes in us. We just need grace.

The same goes for our children.

Sometimes, our human children will have human emotions. Like we do. And sometimes that comes in the form of a bad attitude or even disrespect.

When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” – John 8:7

I’m not insinuating that we don’t correct bad attitudes and disrespect. I’m suggesting that we don’t throw stones.

More days than I care to admit, I’ve had a bad attitude. I could name a dozen reasons, lay blame on stress or work or kids, but the truth is that I just didn’t have myself under control. I wasn’t managing my emotions or behavior well. It wasn’t anyone’s fault but my own. There have also been times when I’ve spoken to my children disrespectfully. 

If you don’t have bad attitudes or speak disrespectfully sometimes, I would love to know your secret. So far, I haven’t met any perfect people. That’s why I don’t expect my children to be perfect, either. If I did, I’d be a hypocrite.

So, what do I do when my kids have a bad attitude? Do I stand by and do nothing when they’re disrespectful? I do different things, depending on the situation, but I always address it. 

Here are my ways of loving courageously through bad attitudes:

1. Sometimes, I just use humor. “Check yo-self before you wreck yo-self!” For Pete’s sake, sometimes we just need to lighten up and have a good laugh. Not everything is about ME. Not every bad mood is some kind of devious master plan to bring me down. I mean, I woke up in a bad mood just yesterday. Too much working, not enough sleep. It happens.

2. Sometimes, I offer a hug and a chat. “Looks like you’re having a rough day, love. Need a hug? Would you like to talk about it?” I like it when my husband does that for me when I’m all grumpy. I need that, you know? I need a hug and a chat. If he told me to stay in my room until I could have a better attitude, I don’t think I’d like him very much.

3. Sometimes, I remedy the cause of the bad attitude. Once, when mine were much younger, I noticed Spongebob was the little yellow culprit behind my son’s sudden love of calling everything “stupid” and being generally….Spongebob-like. So, I stopped letting him watch Spongebob. I explained how the attitudes characters have on cartoons don’t have any real affect because they’re cartoons, but in real life, attitudes do have an affect. So do words. I’ve also noticed my oldest gets the grumps with too much screen time and my youngest is never really grumpy, but he does get a bit wild when I’ve been overly distracted and haven’t filled his cup. So, I make adjustments and things get better.

4. They each have a social-emotional notebook they keep as part of our homeschool curriculum. In it, there are pages where they graph their moods and energy, pages that talk about feelings, and pages that show them how to manage their emotions. We go over these things regularly. 

5. They see me go to into what I call my “mind palace”, surrounded by journals and coffee, and shift my mood. I model that for them. I’ll say, “Dudes, I have a case of the grumpies and I’m going to take 10, okay?” They need to know we all have these feelings and, more importantly, we all have a choice on how to act with these feelings. 

I know this takes courage, gentle parents. Your inclination is to come back at that bad attitude with a bigger and badder one. Show them who’s boss! You want to squash that disrespect with your iron fist because, by golly, how dare they after all you do for them? That’s a lose-lose situation. Love wins.

“People who fight fire with fire usually end up with ashes.” – Pauline Phillips 

Today’s Challenge: Do you fight fire with fire? How do you typically react to bad attitudes and disrespect? Will you commit to loving courageously the next time you’re faced with it?


Read the post that inspired the Love Courageously challenge.

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