Anyone with kids has been there: Your children cop an attitude, and you're faced with the decision to call them on it right there, or to let it slide and hope it doesn't happen again.
Author and parenting expert Michele Borba has written a new book called "Don't Give Me That Attitude - 24 Rude, Selfish, Insensitive Things Kids Do And How To Stop Them," designed to help parents put an end to any attitude they encounter.
When it comes to giving your kid an attitude makeover, Borba advises parents to try it for at least 21 days. If you give up sooner than that, your child will revert back to the bad attitude.
Read an excerpt from her book:
...BAD ATTITUDE ALERT
Before you attempt to stop your kid's arrogant, "superior"
ways, you need to consider where, why, and how this attitude
These questions will help you better understand why your
child is using an arrogant attitude and figure out what's going
Why. Why is your kid arrogant? Think carefully about what
may have caused him to have such a high opinion of himself
—or might he be compensating for something he lacks?
Does he really have something to feel superior about? Is he
gifted in the area he professes to be so knowledgeable about?
And what makes him feel he is so superior? Are you praising
and acknowledging that expertise so much that he sees only
his strengths and overlooks his weaknesses? Is an arrogant attitude
something that is valued in your home? Or are you being
too negative and critical, provoking this defensive reaction, this
compensation for your withering attacks? Does he see others
bragging unduly about their strengths, and so he is modeling
their attitude? Or might it be that he is really trying to compensate
for feelings of inadequacy? Another thing to consider:
does he hear you bragging about his "brilliance" to others, and
so he feels he needs to provide you with more things to brag
about? Why did he develop such a know-it-all spirit?
What. Are there particular things he is more arrogant
about? Is there a special subject or area of expertise that he
tends to be more boastful toward—such as math, science, or
vocabulary? If so, what is it? Is there a skill or talent he is
more prone to show off: hockey, flute, weight lifting, or
Who. Does he display the same arrogant attitude to everyone:
friends, the neighbor kids, teammates, a coach, a teacher,
relatives, siblings, you, or your partner? Are there some individuals
he does not use his know-it-all ways on? For instance:
all relatives or some; all friends or just some? All his teammates
or just some? Why are some spared dealing with this attitude?
When. Is there a particular time of day,week, month, or year
when he is more arrogant? Is there a reason? For instance, if it
is at a particular time, could something—such as a musical
recital, spelling bee competition, athletic tournament, school
debate, or report cards—be coinciding? Also, about when did
you first see signs of this attitude? Was there anything happening
at the same time that might have triggered his knowit-
all ways: a move, an overly competitive school, a pushy
relative, a certain teacher?
Where. Are there certain places he is more likely to be arrogant:
at school or day care, on an athletic field, with peers, at
a musical concert, at home, at a store, at Grandma's? Why? Or
is he arrogant every place and everywhere?
Now take a look at your answers.Are you seeing any
predictable patterns? Do you have any better understanding
of your kid's arrogant attitude and where it's coming from?
WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOUR CURRENT RESPONSE?
Your kid is right in front of you, and her arrogant, know-it-all
ways are flying full colors. How do you typically respond? Do
you reinforce her professions of greatness by agreeing with
her? Do you encourage her by reminding her of other talents
she has overlooked? Are you cheering her know-it-all ways
because you feel it is a sign of high self-esteem?
If you don't approve of her arrogant attitude, what do
you do (or do you do anything?)? For instance, do you let
her know you don't approve by giving her one of your
sternest looks? Yell? Lecture? Shrug? Remove a privilege?
Raise your eyebrows? Do you ignore her attitude and hope
it will go away by itself? Or do you let her know that she
really doesn't have anything to be so proud of? Do you criticize?
Humiliate? Compare her professed talent to that of someone
else, such as a sibling, your partner, her peers, or even
What is the one response you have found does not work
in stopping her arrogant ways? Write what you will never do
from this moment forward:
I will not ________________________________________
FACING YOUR OWN BAD ATTITUDES
Where is your kid learning this attitude? Could it be from you
or your partner? Tune into your attitude and that of those
close to your child, and look for clues. It may help you discover
what's triggering your kid's arrogance.
First, look at your own attitude, and think about the kind
of example you are sending. For instance, do you brag frequently
about your accomplishments or talents in front of
your kids? Do they hear you boasting about yourself to your
partner, relatives, or spouse? What about your spouse or relatives?
Do they display this attitude?
What do your kids perceive you value more: personal
character or personal achievements? Is your attitude in line
with those values? Do you emphasize your family's social,
financial, or professional status to your kids? Do you (and they)
have the view that your family is somehow "better" than other
families? Do you stress personal accomplishments, grades, athletic
prowess, and test results so much to your kids that they
might perceive they need to prove themselves in order to gain
your love? How competitive are you about your kids and family?
For instance, how important is it for your kids to be "better"
than your friends' kids? Do you openly compare your
kids' performance, grades, or capabilities to those of their
classmates, cousins, neighbors, or friends?
What are your beliefs about how children acquire selfesteem?
For instance, do you feel it is more a matter of nature
or your nurture? Is self-esteem contingent on a child's personal
accomplishments or a parent's acceptance, or both? Do
you feel that arrogance is a sign of high, medium, or low selfesteem?
Do you feel criticism lowers your child's self-esteem?
Do you criticize your child's poor behavior or attitude? If so,
how? If not, why? Might your response have anything to do
with your child's arrogant attitude?
Is there anything in your own attitude that might be
enhancing your kid's arrogance? If so, what is it? What is the
first step you need to take in yourself to be a better example
of humility to your child?
I will ___________________________________________
THE "DON'T GIVE ME THAT ATTITUDE"
To eliminate your child's arrogant bad attitude, take the following
BAD ATTITUDE NEWS ALERT
A famous study found that nine of
ten adults felt that as they were growing
up, they had to display a high skill,
talent, or special ability in order to gain their parents'
love. Might your child be in this category? If so, it
could very well be a reason for his know-it-all ways.
Researchers also found that the need to demonstrate
competencies learned in childhood remains a pattern
well into adulthood. This time, though, the adult uses
his profession as a means of gaining approval and accolades
from loved ones. Once again, instead of feeling a
sense of quiet, inner confidence in his talents and
strengths, he must toot his horn and demonstrate them
to others for approval. If this is the case, he is at high
risk for developing anxiety, low self-esteem, and the
fear of disappointment. Make sure your child knows
that your love is based on just who he is—and not on
that gold star, goal, SAT score, or great grade.
Twenty-Four Attitude Makeovers
Step 1. Uncover the Source
Here are some common reasons that your child may be so
arrogant. Check off those that might pertain to your situation:
□ She may feel the need to show off her talents, skills, or
intelligence.Have you set a precedent in which your kids
display their talents to friends, relatives, or one another?
□ She may be jealous or resentful. Do you favor one
child, or does she feel that you do? Do you compare
her capabilities—academic, social, aesthetic, or athletic
—to those of classmates, peers, neighborhood kids,
cousins, or your friend's kids?
□ She may need attention or want to improve her social
status. Does she feel the way to make friends is by
"impressing" them? Does she lack social skills to find
friends who accept her for herself?
□ She may feel that this is the way to gain your approval.
Do you emphasize the concept of "what did you get?"
(grades,"gold stars," goals, scores) to your kid? Do you
reinforce or reward (such as with money or privileges)
your child's performance?
□ She may feel "privileged" or "above others." Do you
stress your family's status—financial, social, educational,
professional—as being better than others?
□ She may be self-centered. Have you made your child
feel as though no one is as intelligent, talented, or
capable as she is?
□ She may feel inadequate. Is she trying to prove her
capabilities to others because deep down she feels not
□ She models what she hears. Does she hear other family
members boasting and mimic them?
□ She may be competitive. Is competition to be the best
a priority in your house, and so she feels the need to
prove she meets your expectations?
Identifying the specific reasons for your child's arrogant
attitude will aid tremendously in changing it.
Step 2. Point Out Others' Reactions
A big part of changing any habit is for the offender to realize
why he should change, and that's a problem with kids.
They often have used the attitude so long that they're
unaware that arrogance is a real turn-off and doesn't win
them any points from friends, teammates, or adults. Help
your child recognize how others react to his know-it-all
superior ways. Here are a few examples of how you might
do so with your child:
• Ask: How would you feel? "Sam came over to play, but you
spent a lot of time walking him around the house and
telling him how much bigger our house is than his. How
do you think he feels? Do you think he'd like to come and
play with you again?"
• Point out nonverbal reactions. "Did you see Kevin smirk
when you talked about all your trophies?" "Sara rolled her
eyes when you told her Dad makes more money than her
dad. Did you notice?"
• Role-play the other side. "I heard you bet Meredith that
you were smarter in math than she is and showed your
report cards. Pretend you are Meredith.What do you think
she'd like to say to you?"
Step 3. Emphasize Character, Not Performance
The point is to judge others not on what they have done
but based on who they are. That means you need to stress
character, not performance. Start with your child, but
because modeling is such an important way kids learn, do it
also with your whole family. That way you will be more
likely to really walk your talk. Here are some ways to
emphasize to your kid that in the end, it's his character that
• Stop rewarding; just expect and accept. Stop bribing or
rewarding your kid's efforts. The best self-esteem is internalized:
your child must gain a sense of pride that he
accomplished something for the joy of doing it and did it
on his own. Also, find a level of expectation that is appropriate
for each child's specific ability, temperament, and level
of development. Some kids just do better than others at
certain things during certain times.
• Halt the "parading." I know you're proud, but stop putting
your kid on center stage to always perform. It's all right
on the soccer field or in a musical concert, but lower the
curtains in your home.
• Emphasize effort, not the product. Put your acknowledgments
into the little steps and efforts your child makes, not
the final result.
• Stress unconditional love. Continually emphasize to your child,
"Who you are is what matters most. Not your grades, test
scores, appearance, or friends. Win or lose—you are who I love."
Step 4. Acknowledge Others
Arrogant kids often focus on their own strengths and overlook
those of others, so a big part of tempering your kid's arrogance
is to help him recognize the accomplishments and achievements
of others. Here are a few strategies to help your child
start looking for the greatness in others and acknowledge it:
• Greet others. The most basic form of acknowledgment is a
simple "Hello,""Good morning," or "How are you?" Promote
their use by your child.Though they seem like such
minimal gestures, simple salutations are the first steps toward
helping kids become more tuned into others and less tuned
• Encourage encouragement. Tell your child that one of the
secrets of people who are appreciated (as well as liked) by
others is that they frequently encourage others.An arrogant
kid may not be aware of supportive, encouraging statements
that focus on building others up (instead of themselves), so
brainstorm a few together: "Nice try!""Super!""Great
job!" "Good game!" You might even post a list as a
reminder.Then say the encouragers frequently so your child
will "catch them" and then encourage her to start using
them with peers.
• Enforce the 1 X 7 Rule. Encourage your child to praise a
person's specific strengths, skills, or talent at least once a day,
every day for a week. It could be a family member, friend,
or stranger just as long as your child practices the art of
praising someone other than herself. Be sure to help your
kid recognize the kinds of traits that can be praised, so
model a few examples: "Great kick!" "You're quite an
artist.""You sure know a lot about history!"At the end of
the day, ask your child who she praised and how the recipient
responded. Hint: This is also a great activity to do as a
family: because everyone is on board using the same 1 7
Rule, there are more examples for your child to learn from.
Step 5. Reinforce Authentic Self-Esteem and Humility
Reinforce your child's humility as soon as it happens, and let her
know how pleased it makes you feel. Remember that true selfesteem
is a quiet, inner contentment in which the child doesn't
feel compelled to let others know of her accomplishments and
accolades. Nor does she feel the urge to compare herself to others
or put the other guy down. Here are some examples:
"Jessica, I know how proud you must feel about your grades.
I'm proud of how hard you worked. I also appreciate
that you just told Dad and me and didn't call all your
friends this time."
"Jeremy, I heard how you commented on how much more
Dr. Hallowell knows than you do about migrating butterflies.
I remember when you claimed to be the world's
Excerpted from "Don't Give Me That Attitude," by Michele Borba. Copyright© 2004 by Michele Borba. Excerpted by permission of Jossey-Bass, a Wiley imprint. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.