How to Tame Disrespect and “Sass”.


My 9-year-old has been sassing, interrupting, and pushing boundaries more and more. Especially with her stepdad (my husband). Hormones may or may not be involved, but the disrespect and tension continue to escalate. How do I begin to navigate this? -Ashley H.

Thank you for this question, Ashley.  I know there are likely many readers who can relate.  Our elementary-aged children, nearing the tween years, are navigating a lot of emotions and challenging experiences each day.  These experiences can range from peer conflicts, social-media pressures, extracurricular team expectations and more.  And all packed into a body that is just slightly passed early childhood.  

When I hear children who are acting out more, with what looks like disrespect on the surface – I recommend getting curious, not furious.  I wonder in what ways your young daughter may be having a problem in her life that is manifesting as disrespectful behavior. She may not be trying to be sassy, but doesn’t quite know how to manage the feelings, emotions, and experiences she is dealing with. This is where you can come in with a connect.  It’s so very counter-intuitive to look at back-talk or a child who’s ignoring and see the hurt that is likely underneath it.  However, when you do strive to look under the surface of the behavior, you will likely find the key to more cooperation and positive interactions.  

The foundational principle is to connect before you correct.  When she is seeming distant, snappy or rude, try to start your response with some form of connection and curiosity about what might be bothering her.  This could look like a hug, sitting next to her on the couch, and asking if there’s something she’d like to share, about what’s bothering her.  Often this leads the interaction into one of vulnerability, instead of her keeping on the shell of disrespect. Once you have established the trust that the connection brings with it, you can address her underlying emotions and why she is acting out. The situation will already be desalted, and lead to a better, solution-focused conversation.

Click here to view the full article in Montana Parent Magazine.

Flora McCormick, LCPC is a parenting coach of over 10 years, who supports to families in Bozeman & across the country.  Learn more in her FREE Facebook community: Sustainable Parenting, or on Instagram: Sustainable_Parent_Coach.  Questions for the next issue can be submitted to

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