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Eliminate “Shut up!” from Your Family’s Vocabulary

By James Lehman, MSW

For many families, the "shut up"  response is an "A-side/B-side" issue. Here, James Lehman MSW tackles the problem from both perspectives, and shows you how to eliminate it from your family’s vocabulary.

“Shut up!”  What to do when your child says it to you:
If your child tells you to shut up, the best thing to do is not give it power. And by arguing, talking and fighting back, you’re giving it power. Instead, the next time it happens, try saying, “Don’t talk to me that way, I don’t like it,” and turn around and leave the room. When things have calmed down, tell your child what the consequence is for his or her rude behavior.

And by the way, there should be regular consequences in the house for things like cursing, name calling, and rude behavior. They should be functional consequences, like “No cell phone for 24 hours.” That way, kids know what will happen if they break the rules, and you don’t have to repeat it every time. So you don’t have to fight with them, just use the consequences that you think would be most effective with your child, whether it’s no video games for 24 hours, or taking away their cell phone for a day.

"Shut up!”  Why you should never say it to your child:
On the other hand, do you ever find yourself saying, “Just shut up and do it!” to your child? Parents tell kids to shut up for a variety of reasons. But ultimately, it’s to exert their control over the conversation. Sometimes they want backtalk to stop, sometimes they want complaining to stop, and sometimes they’re just tired of listening to their child. No matter what the context, saying “Shut up” is rarely helpful and never appropriate. It begins a power struggle which the child may not be willing to lose. Remember, there are many things to fight about with children; this shouldn’t be one of them.

The reality is that “shut up” is a rude, offensive comment. Kids learn that fact very early through various channels, from movies, music, school and TV.  So when you’re saying “Shut up” to a child, they know they’re being insulted. And the last thing you want is teach your child how to say “shut up” to you or anyone else.

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About James Lehman, MSW

James Lehman, who dedicated his life to behaviorally troubled youth, created The Total Transformation® Program, The Complete Guide to Consequences™, Getting Through To Your Child™, and Two Parents One Plan™, from a place of professional and personal experience. Having had severe behavioral problems himself as a child, he was inspired to focus on behavioral management professionally. Together with his wife, Janet Lehman, he developed an approach to managing children and teens that challenges them to solve their own problems without hiding behind disrespectful, obnoxious or abusive behavior. Empowering Parents now brings this insightful and impactful program directly to homes around the globe.

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