How do you deal with a smart mouth kid?

How do you deal with a smart mouth, nasty-toned kid when the use of a 2×4 is illegal in all 50 states?

I wish I knew.

There are days when I want to throttle my kids for their mouths. Even the simplest statement or criticism is often met with sighing, unnecessary tone, and unacceptable comeback—especially between my wife and daughters. If home mediation was a paid gig, I could have probably quit my day job with my oldest daughter.

She’s getting better now (at 20), but she spends a lot more time away from the house. Our 11-year-old, however, is about to board Alice’s “To the moon” express. And therein lies the problem. As much as I would like to give her a good smack to the kisser when she pops off, she and I both know that its just an empty a threat as Jackie Gleason’s character made.

Making it even worse, I can take away pretty much everything she owns and it doesn’t phase her. I am currently in possession of her cell, her laptop, and a lot of her time. She’s stubborn and strong-willed. After about a day, she no longer cares what possessions of hers we hold captive. She’ll just do something else.

At one point, I even put her in “hard labor.”* I had her out in the backyard area pulling weeds from a large overgrown patch where we aren’t supposed to grow grass. Even that didn’t work. She enjoyed it—and did a pretty good job.


After searching around the internet on this issue, I came across several forum boards and articles on the topic. It was rather apparent that I am not the only one facing this issue.  Advice typically ranged from Don’t let them act that way to ignore them. Very helpful—thanks a ton.

One  article I found from Pop Sugar, entitled 6 Ways to Handle Your Teen’s Attitude, got pretty close. Author Mary Beth says (paraphrased):

1 – Stay Calm: Keep your cool, politely tell the child they need to stop, do one-on-one time in a valuable way, and back up if you feel yourself losing it.

2 – Provide Tough Love: Do not be their “friend”, have prescribed rules in the situation.

3 – Enforce Consequences: Self-explanatory. Stick to your guns when carrying out corrective behavior.

4 – Keep Your Perspective: Choose your battles. All (most) teens have times of attitude. It will get better with time.

5 – Don’t Cave In: Acknowledge they are growing up, but do not lose your stance. You are still the adult and deserve the respect of age and being their parent.

6 – Remind Them You Love Them: Hug them harder. Re-enforce positivity – they are still good kids…

Well? Yeah. Ok.

As I stated earlier, I know I can’t beat them, but killing them with kindness and being saintly patient only ends up getting you walked on. Sorry. Maybe in a perfect world a polite yet stern talking to would work, but here in the really-real world? Not so much. At least not with my kids. The “planned ignoring” technique does work about 60-70% of the time, but it doesn’t solve the problem.

When I was a kid, I got a mouthful of Lava bar soap or got my ass cheeks reddened. I learned quickly not to pop off in a manner reserved for adults. I was always taught that I could say what I wanted, but I needed to watch how I said it. My opinion of things was never stifled—just my delivery. Unfortunately, those tactics will land you in jail these days. Kids are taught  to use 911 indiscriminately, and your 3-5 year old could land you 3-5 years, if not more.

So what do you recommend? What has worked on your kids’ unacceptable behavior or smart mouth?


*Before anyone calls Human Services on me, I made absolutely sure she took breaks every so many weeds or minutes, made sure she drank plenty of water and had snack foods, and got her out of the sun before it got too hot. Relax. Photo credit: kurichan+ / / CC BY-NC-ND

The Beginning
About Brandon P. Duncan

Brandon is a dad, husband, US Soldier, and co-founder of Dads Round Table.
When not knee-deep in one of those things, he can often be found tinkering with a woodworking project, writing, drawing, or Photoshopping something... or napping... or he's hurt himself again... or... something...

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