Why do they speak to me like that?
Updated: Mar 8, 2020
In my 18 years of experience in schools and 31 years as a mother, I know that anyone with children of their own or working with children, will agree that 10 is the new 14! They are barely out of the terrible twos when we are confronted by a child that looks like someone we recognise but sounds like someone we just don’t know! someone ; sulky, dismissive, and sometimes just plain rude. This stage feels very much like the ‘terrible twos’ “I’m finding my own way and if I don’t agree with you, I’m going to tell you!”
Firstly let me tell you, you are not alone. Teachers and parents across the country unite in that question, ‘Why do they speak to me like that? Secondly however, this is unlikely to stop completely but please keep reading and hopefully you will find some strategies that will not only help you manage these behaviours in a positive way but that your children will also learn from them and be able to use this learning as they move onto the next phase of their development.
So next time you are confronted with a tone of voice from a child that makes you take a sharp intake of breath, it may be helpful to consider these points:
1. Remain in the adult.
This can prove challenging. It’s about remembering that you are the adult and it is your job to set the tone in this interaction. We’ve all done it, ‘Don’t you use that tone of voice with me! In exactly the same tone of voice as the child. In my experience, this never or rarely ends in a positive way, and there is no opportunity for the child to learn from this experience. When we match the tone of voice that we hear, this puts the child on the defensive, wanting to be heard, and the conflict continues.
2. Respond to the words they are using, not the emotion. There may be times when I will give the opposite advice to this but in this situation I have always found that responding to words defuses the situation much quicker than reacting to the emotion. When we respond to the words, this allows us to remain in the adult, consider our tone of voice and really hear what s/he is trying to tell us.
3. Use this as an opportunity to show them that you will always listen and you are always going to do the right thing for them in that situation. Being heard is a fundamental desire of all human beings. When we ‘remain in the adult’, consider their words, and respond to what it is that they really need, this allows trust to grow in the relationship as they believe that you will also try to understand what it is they need from you.
4. Always address the unwanted behaviour. Once the situation has been resolved and they know that you are able to help them, come back to the tone of voice that this started with and address it. There is no set rule for when this should be done, for some children this could be straight away, for others it may be best to leave a short time. You will know what is best for your child. Don’t be tempted to skip this step, as this is a really great opportunity for them to learn about boundaries. Learning about the boundaries in relationships is very important for our children as this will set the tone for future relationships.