5 Phrases That Stop Chutzpah In It’s Tracks

21 Sep 2016

Yom Tov is coming up. We might not want to admit it, but it can be a tense time. There is a lot of work to be done and not so much time to do it.

Kids might feel neglected, and parents feel overworked. That can set tempers flaring.

We often respond to our children’s chutzpah with anger. That makes us feel extra guilty during this time period and it just escalates matter. It is not the way we want to behave right around the Yamim Noraim.

So how can we respond when our kids say:

“You’re not the boss of me”

“You can’t make me!”

“No way! You’re the meanest Mommy!”

Here are 5 phrases that we can use to help deal with chutzpah calmly and appropriately:

1. “Excuse me..”: Saying this gently and firmly can let your child know that they have crossed the line in a neutral and non-confrontational way.

2. “You sound upset and angry..”: Responding to a child’s back talk with empathy is probably the most effective tactic you can use. It is called a countermove, you don’t respond with anger to anger. Kids feel less threatened and it is a great way to diffuse potential power struggles.

3. “Let’s try again…”: This is another simple and gentle way to let your child know that they are behaving badly, but that you have faith in them that they can behave better and be more respectful. Using the word, “Let’s” is modeling respect. It shows them that you are on the same team. The underlying message is, “we can work through this and stay calm together…”

4. “I know you know how to speak respectfully…”: It is a gentle admonishment, you are really saying, “You are being completely disrespectful and I know you can turn this behavior around.”

5. Take a deep exaggerated yoga breath.. : Taking a deep breath physiologically helps you calm down. It gives you a minute to take stock of the situation and hopefully realize that you don’t need to respond in anger. Because I do this so often, it is a sign for my kids that I am upset and a hint that they should start toeing the line. Sometimes I don’t even need to say anything else.

Later, when you are both calm, it is important to very briefly and calmly review the situation and teach them to replace their disrespectful response with an appropriate one. You can simply say, “Remember before when you said that I was the meanest Mommy. That was disrespectful. It is better to say, ‘Mommy, I am really angry right now!’ I know you will remember that next time!”

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.