Does your child seem to constantly make fun of you? Mocking, imitating and laughing at parents can be harmless fun, but it can also become an annoying behavior that undermines your authority.
Some kids make a game of teasing their parents. There are two contexts in which kids can mock, imitate or laugh at you. One is in the family setting of teasing each other. It happens all the time and it’s perfectly acceptable. But you should have boundaries about how much your kids can tease or mock you. The problem arises when kids tease or laugh at you in order to be disrespectful or rude, and to undermine your authority. For example, when you’re telling your son to turn off the TV and start his homework, and he parrots back your words to you and mocks your tone of voice, that’s not playing. That’s disrespect, and an attempt to chip away at your position of authority.
The response from you has to be very clear: “We’re not playing now. This is serious.” If at that point your child cannot stop laughing and teasing, you should walk away. When you talk later, make it very clear. “If you laugh and tease me when I talk to you, that’s disrespectful and it will carry a consequence.” This might be the loss of something that’s important to the child until they apologize and tell you what they’ll do differently next time. Parents are sometimes reluctant to make an issue of things like mocking and teasing. They think, “My kid does so many things that need to be corrected, I don’t want to bother with this.” But understand this: When your child mocks, imitates or teases you to be disrespectful and you don’t address it, your parental authority erodes quickly.
There are many ways to undermine authority and kids will use teasing and laughter to do just that, but parents have to recognize it and respond to it. Deal with it firmly and set limits on the teasing. When things are calm, tell them, “When we’re not playing, that’s not acceptable, and when you do that to me, you’re going to be held accountable.”
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.