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When kids get lippy
Parenting Power Admin May 1, 2012 2 Comments

When kids get lippy

A client recently asked us:

HOW do I teach my child that he is lippy when he talks to adults? It happens so often at home, that I’ve come to accept it – NOT GOOD! Now I notice he talks this way with teachers and other adults. He says he is just being honest so how do I teach him to show respect when he doesn’t see that there is anything wrong with it?

It’s amazing how we get used to a behaviour at home and then, seeing it in the “Real World” suddenly makes us very aware of a bad habit.

When it comes to teaching children a respectful way to interact with adults (yourself included), it needs to be about what to say rather than what not to say.  There is nothing wrong with a child being honest with an adult, so rather than telling him not to, we need to teach him respectful words to use (assertiveness = asking for what you need in a way that respects everyone involved). I

Begin with a specific example of something disrespectful you heard him say to an adult. At a calm time, let him know that you heard it and you are going to work together on learning a new way to ask for what he needs. At Parenting Power, we love to teach kids about “The Power of I”. This is when you start the sentence with the letter “I”. Some examples of sentence starters are:


I feel

I need

I see

I hear

I would really like

May I please…


You could work with your son to change regular sentences into Power of I sentences. For example:


You never pick me to answer a question becomes I would really like to answer this one OR I feel left out, may I please have a turn?

Everyone else got more than me! Becomes May I please have some more? OR I need some more please.

You are so mean to me! Becomes I feel really hurt when you treat me like that.


If this seems too complicated for your child, you could actually do it as a matching game – write out sentences on cards and have him match up the “Power of I” statements with the regular ones.


When your son is lippy to you,  you can simply say, “Please try that again with the Power of I”.


It is really important that you expect respect from kids at home for two reasons:


  1. Kids live what they learn and learn what they live – he is with you more than with anyone else so he will be able to practice doing it well OR poorly on a regular basis with you at home.
  2. When we allow children to treat us with disrespect, they learn that “In our family people can be treated with disrespect”. This means that he will think it is ok when others treat him with disrespect. When we teach children that they must use respectful language with us, they learn that “In our family, we all deserve to be treated with respect.”


If you are not sure of the lippy situations at school, pick one or two at home and start to teach new scripts. This will be a great gift for everyone in the family as younger siblings learn from older children as well.



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Replies (2)

Lesley Fenton May 24, 2016 at 3:33 pm

This is something that worked well for me and it was how I was raised.
I made sure my boys knew that they could say anything to me as long as it was said respectfully. I was very big on talking things out. I also made a point of speaking respectfully to them even when cross about something.
Jonathan is working as a social worker in London UK. He has to deal with angry, upset people in his job. He apparently tells people that he is interested in what they have to say but will only respond to respectful dialogue. He apparently says it over and over with patience. His supervisor complimented him on his successful approach. He told her he had learned it from his Mum. I was gratified!
I love your columns. Always makes me feel better. I am starting to revisit some of your topics for the Grands!

    Parenting Power Admin May 24, 2016 at 3:41 pm

    Thanks Lesley. As always, we appreciate your support. So great to hear that Jonathan is having such success!

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