A parent identifying herself as a tween mom recently emailed asking for a "solution to solve the back talk / eye roll rude tween behavior that appears suddenly."
She wanted a step-by-step solution. I'm afraid that each child and each family is different, so there may not be one approach that works for everyone, but I have some thoughts. (I'll address the eye rolling for simplicity's sake, but this advice also applies to the back talk and other undesirable behaviors you may see from your adolescent.)
First, know that this problem certainly isn't unique and you are very much not alone. It's like the hormones that comes with puberty make eyeballs exceptionally rolly polly somehow. You and your child are certainly not entering uncharted territory here.
That said, I don't think that parents should tolerate eye rolling if they don't want to. Give it some thought. Different families have different tolerance level for such behaviors.
If you've decided that you see it as rude and disrespectful, as I do, then you need to deal with it. That brings three quotes to mind.
"You teach people how to treat you."
I know, I know, this is a Dr. Phil-ism, but the bald guy has a point. You do a lot for this kid, and it's fair to say that you deserve respect. If you have to demand it, so be it.
Teach them how to treat you. If you say nothing and there are no consequences, you teach them that it is acceptable behavior.
Do your kids know that their eye rolling upsets you? Make sure they do.
Wait until there's a calm, uneventful few moments and raise the issue. Let your child know that you don't appreciate such behavior, how it makes you feel and/or why you think it is unacceptable. Then discuss what are appropriate ways to express disagreement and frustration.
To that end, offer some alternative actions. They are welcome to excuse themselves to calm down. They can take a deep breath (this can be dicey as it can seem like a sigh, but maybe that's okay with you).
Also, make it clear to your child that you will not tolerate such behavior. There will be consequences.
This raises another Dr. Phil-ism that I'm paraphrasing: know their currency.
Know your child's currency, and use it.
What your child values most is the currency you need to use. Trying to pay in pesos in the U.S. won't get you very far, just as a minor punishment dealing with something not all that important to your kid won't make a big impact, and will not teach them much.
Figure out what means a lot to your child, what they really care about. It can be the phone, Mine Craft, other video games, time with friends, the ability to do an extra curricular activity, clothing, YouTube video or television show, anything. You want to deal in something that will really hit home and get their attention.
Each child values privileges/rights/things differently, which is why there is no one set way to address things.
Then let your kid know that either the eye rolling goes away, or that (whatever that currency item is) goes away.
Then, follow through.
It's not easy. Stay the course.
If you need help staying the course, refer to the wise words of Erma Bombeck about "I loved you enough to say no" here, and remember that you are saying no to being treated poorly.
And you should stay the course not just for yourself, but for them. You want to stop eye rolling before it becomes a habit, and make sure they know that others won't appreciate it, either. It's not like your children can expect establish positive, successful relationships with college roommates or future employers if they are consistently rolling their eyes at them.
You're not only insisting on the treatment you deserve, you are also teaching them how to survive in the real world. Better they learn from you, don't you think?
The final quote this parenting challenge brings to mind is from Dr. Deborah Gilboa, aka Doc G.
"How you feel does not excuse how you act."
Being an adolescent is complicated and confusing. We get that. There are a lot of emotions to handle, and that's not always easy. But you can still expect your child to treat you with the respect you deserve even when they're having a bad day.
"Tweens need to know that how you feel matters, but what you do is even more important than how you feel. If you don’t correct that perception as tweens, you get awfully entitled teens," Dr. G. told me in this interview. (You can read about her recent book, “Get the Behavior You Want…Without Being the Parent You Hate," here.)
So, let's break it down into the steps for the questioner:
1. Figure out what behavior is acceptable and unacceptable to you.
2. Let your child know where those lines are, and what are acceptable ways to share that they are frustrated.
4. Give them notice that you will take it away when they engage in unacceptable behavior, and then follow through.
5. Explain to them that this isn't just a parent-child relationship issue, but a how to have healthy, productive relationships with other humans issue.
Also, I hate to add this, because it hits a little too close to home, but parents should be aware of their own eye rolling. It is possible that I am a world class eye roller. Remember that kids are more likely to do as we do than as we say, so if you want to limit the eye rolling from them, don't model it a ton yourself. I know. I feel your pain.
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