Worst-Case Wednesday: How to Deal with a Smart Aleck

Posted by Jennifer Murphy

You know how kids are big bundles of joy all the time? No?

Ever want to smack a kid for a smart mouth? Yes?

Hold on now, I’m not condoning violence, but sometimes certain maddening little back-talkers drive you crazy to the point where such things don’t seem out of the realm of extreme possibility. Ok, let’s move away from those problematic thoughts and think of better, more constructive ways to deal with a difficult child. After all, kids will be kids, as they say, and kids are notorious for finding new ways to step over the line. Adults, take a look at The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Guide: Parenting and use these tips to find new ways to deal with your smart aleck.

How to Deal with a Smart Aleck

1. Ignore: Children with easy-going temperaments will try out smart-aleck behavior once or twice and drop it if it doesn’t get a response.

2. Alert your child to the offensive behavior: If your child continues to display an impertinent attitude, point out specific information about his actions that are acceptable. Raise a yellow flag, kept in your back pocket (the way a referee calls a foul), whenever your child says something obnoxious. Then give him a time-out.

3. Remove privileges: Reduce access to favorite activities, such as watching television or playing outside, in accordance with the severity and frequency of the insolence. Clearly state the reason for the consequence. Place favorite toys or video games in a “toy prison,” from which they can be paroled for the child’s good behavior.

4. Do not sass back: It will be tempting to respond in kind to offensive behavior; it is likely that you’d win a contest of wits, but you run the risk of encouraging your child to come up with better lines the next time.

5. Encourage your budding comedian: Try to hone your child’s wit into a marketable skill. Watch movies and listen to recordings featuring famous sarcastic comedians and work on his act. Beware that this could lead to a child becoming a “dirty talker,” and, if the act succeeds, completely unmanageable.

6. Be Aware: Children learn to behave and speak by modeling what they observe at home. Do not use any language in front of the child that you would not want him repeating. Eliminate sarcasm, eye rolling, verbal mimicry, irony, and back talk from your own speech.