Managing Sass: A Personal Story

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My daughter started acting out of character.

After several hours of grumpiness, and what my dad would have called “sass,” I had had enough of feeling like a punching bag.

Repeatedly, I fought the urge to take her behaviour personally. (Because feeling walked on is about me. Her mood is about her.)

Yet, I was so close to asking, “What’s your problem anyway?!” simply out of frustration. Granted, I really DID want to know what the problem was–so I could help her find a solution–but my snarky tone would not have invited a loving exchange.

Instead, I took a slow breath in, and a slower breath out; to give my nervous system the message that all was well. “There’s no emergency here. Her behaviour is only what I see on the surface,” I reminded myself. “What need might she be communicating?” “Observe. Listen.” Breathe some more.

Okay, so now I was ready to actually be of assistance. I mentioned how she seemed out of sorts. And how she wasn’t acting like herself. (No blame. No talk of better choices.) I asked if she knew what might be bothering her.

And I waited for her to accept my invitation to talk.

Guess what? No disrespect came back at me. There was no ‘sass’ or eye-rolls.

Only a relaxing of her shoulders. “I don’t know, Momma,” she said wearily.

Ah, yes. This IS about her. She’s struggling with something.

You know, for the purposes of this lesson, it really doesn’t matter what the issue was. In fact, this could be any such moment over the last few years. And I’m sure my advice wasn’t earth-shattering. It’s even possible that I didn’t offer any.

What I do want to share with you today is the immense power of the relationship we create with our littles.

What if I had acted on the assumption that she was disrespecting me (even if she had been)? Instead, I was able to meet her with compassion and curiosity rather than defensiveness.

She really was “having a hard time, not giving me a hard time.”

By keeping my tone calm, our communication open and the relationship collaborative, I helped myself to help her. Through this moment, we could easily have disconnected due to hurt feelings. But instead, we grew closer.

What has happened between you and your child recently that you took personally and then reacted? What is one thing you can remind yourself of the next time your child lashes out?



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