Alienated children can be very unpleasant to deal with, especially for the targeted parents. These kids are often described as rude, disrespectful, uncooperative, arrogant and downright unpleasant. If this sounds like your situation, rest assured you are not alone. I hear about this every day in my coaching sessions. If your child is treating you this way you are probably struggling with how to respond. On the one hand you certainly don't want to introduce more negativity and conflict in your relationship with your child. But on the other hand you are probably hearing from well-meaning friends and family that you should put you foot down, set limits and boundaries, not be a door mat, and teach your child not to talk to you that way. The good news is that there is a way to respond to a child who is behaving this way -- standing up for yourself -- without putting your child down. Here is what I generally recommend:
Step 1: Show your child that you care by acknowledging that they are upset and you want to know what is going on.
Step 2: Describe to your child in non-shaming language that they are behaving in a way that is uncomfortable for you (avoiding all pejorative labels such as "rude" disrespectful" and the like).
Step 3: Invite your child to share what is on their mind without the behavior that you find unpleasant.
Here is an example of how to respond to a child who is angrily yelling at you:
"I see how upset you are and I really want to understand what is going on. You are talking in a very loud voice which is hurting my ears. Can you please say it again in a quieter voice."
The goal is to reinforce for your child that you love and care for them. If you respond to their negativity with something like, "That is not acceptable" or "I won't let you talk to me that way" you are focusing more on your child's "bad behavior" rather than on the fact that your child is upset. If you follow the three steps above you are focusing on your child's feeling AND giving them feedback about their behavior. Remember that your goal is to always reinforce that you are safe, loving, and available.