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How To Get a Child to Stop Smarting Back

Updated on March 27, 2011

Step outside of the box and consider this idea...

Stop referring to your child's smarting back as Smarting Back. Yes, that's what I said. Go ahead, read it again if you need to. This is all in love, as I am a mother of three, and the oldest one has a history of being quite the Sassafras! (Long for Sassy!)

So what do I mean by stop referring to your child as smarting back? When we think of our children's *worst* traits, we often see them more clearly, more often, and they intensify. Why does this happen? Some might chalk it up to realizing the truth and it just shows up for us. Others might say what we focus on becomes bigger. I tend to side with the latter.

To answer the question, try this: Write a list of all of your child's really irritating qualities and the feeling it brings up in you. Yes, you. Children do have a magnificent way of pushing our buttons. This can be an opportunity for us to do some thoughtful introspection, if we choose.

So you have your list going, you can make it as long as you want. Now, write a list of qualities you like in your child and how you want to feel or enjoy feeling (not how you necessarily think you should feel). Your lists might look something like this:

Irritating Qualities:

  • says things in a tone I hate
  • talks back
  • chews with mouth open
  • leaves clothes on floor
  • doesn't take care of chores

How I feel when my child shows these qualities:

  • like she's a brat (go deeper)
  • like she will make me look stupid (deeper)
  • like she is irresponsible (that's about her, not you)
  • angry that she doesn't listen
  • furious when she embarrases me around others

  • sad because maybe I've done something wrong to influence her to be this way

  • guilt for not knowing how to get my child to be respectful

What I like about my Child:

  • she's creative, I love her art
  • she is talkative
  • she knows what she wants
  • she likes to pick up when we do it together
  • she likes to spend time together
  • she is trying to do her best (she's just a kid)
  • she reads well

How I want to feel and experience my child:

  • I want my child to be respectful
  • I want my child to pick up after herself
  • I want my child to mind her manners

  • I want to notice what I like about my child

  • I want to enjoy my child
  • I will focus on what I appreciate about my child

Each morning, take some time to review what you do appreciate in and want with your child. You will likely find that these qualities show up more so in your life.

This is a look into the whole picture, not a short solution of what to do in the moment. I think it starts with situations such as the one you describe and it's what we do with them.

Sometimes it's easy to get caught up in our role as parents and what we should do, shouldn't do, how they're turning out, what they're doing, saying, and how this all reflects on us and what our lives are made of.

At the end of the day, parenthood can be one big mess of a guilt trip... or we can take it as an opportunity to adventure towards our best Self and enjoy this parenting journey we have embarked upon. The choice is yours!

About Rainbow Recognizer

Amy Phoenix is a gentle, yet direct parenting guide and healing facilitator dedicated to sharing insights and practices to transform frustration and anger, heal the past and nurture conscious relationships – to appreciate all aspects of life. Visit her at


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    • RainbowRecognizer profile image

      RainbowRecognizer 9 years ago from Midwest

      I'm glad to assist :o).  Living in harmony with our children is certainly possible but often takes a bit of seeking to find!

    • RGraf profile image

      Rebecca Graf 9 years ago from Wisconsin

      You don't know how much I needed this right now. My children are ages 12, 10, and 6 and each have very strong personalities. I want to pull my hair out each day as I attempt to deal with each one fairly yet in tune to their individuality. How mothers of five or seven do it I'll never know.

      Thank you for the advice.