Got Attitude? by Bryan Post

When a child is always in a huff about a request or frowns his face, we have a tendency to say this child has an attitude problem.
However, brain research informs us that anytime we encounter something new or different, we perceive it as a threat until deemed otherwise. When you make a simple request of your child, he is naturally geared towards having a reaction. This reaction which is actually brain-based causes him to experience a momentary state of freeze. At this juncture many children have been able to override this experience by rolling their eyes, huffing out loud, making strange sounds and groans, as they move toward completing the request. In this way the expression of emotion through attitude is an attempt, unconsciously, for the child to adjust to the request. To effectively permit your child this expression, simply make your request and move away. It can be just as effective to make your request in passing. This will permit your child to have the emotional safety of his expression without you feeling as though the child is disrespecting you. 
Contrary to what your parents may have believed, the expression of attitude is not an attempt to disrespect, but rather an attempt to adjust to the demand of a new request. Albeit, the request may be very simple, the brain does not always see it that way.

Any request can create a stress reaction. When you make a request honor that it may seem like a really difficult one in that moment. Even if it’s a simple task like making the bed. How many of us really enjoy making the bed? Simply state, “I know it’s sometimes really hard for you to make up your bed.” Then walk away. There doesn’t have to be a “but”. In this instance you are honoring your child’s internal state while at the same time making it okay for them to go through whatever adjustments necessary to complete the task.

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Choose love - Bryan Post


  1. Help me. I want to hear how I am wrong. I remember showing my mom disrespect. She just ignored it. Even when I yelled at her. She would just keep cooking or doing whatever she was working on.

    I felt so much disprespect for her that I determined NOT to become a mother because I didn’t want anybody thinking of me like I thought of my mother.

    Now I read that I should allow our foster daughter to do the same thing?


  2. I really like this discussion about children’s responses. I think that many of our foster or adopted kids have not completed early developmental tasks due to maltreatment. Constancy makes it possible to remain calm under stress or to complete a task even though you are very upset. One example is an adult that is able to calmly talk to a police officer while involved in a care accident (even though their heart is racing). If children never develop constancy they live in a world where impossible expectations are placed on them. They are developmentally not capable of staying calm and following directions while being angry at the same time. Noticing the feeling the child is experiencing is an important first response. The parent needs to loan the child his calm emotional presence repeatedly so that he/she can develop constancy.

    Deborah Pettitt

    Family Christian Counseling Center of Phoenix
    Email Deborah

  3. Wow, this really helps me in dealing with a 13 FAS adopted daughter that has to moan and groan whenever I ask anything of her. When she was younger she would have tantrums, now, she stomps, huffs and puffs and acts like I just told her, her world as she knows it is over!! Its got to the point years ago that I told her teacher if she does her homework fine if not, its a battle I choose to not have. They were having the same battle at school and choose to reward her for every little thing. When she got to Jr High in an ARD she gave them a list of the things she wanted as rewards. I almost came out of my chair. I told them in Jr high she can do the work the same as everyone else without rewards. She is already doing the work of several grades below her. Even now she wants to be in style but wont brush her teeth, or put on deodorant, if I ask, she goes off stomping……. She came to us at three. I do not get as worked up as I use to, now I just say her favorite word “whatever!”

  4. Thanks Jen for the comment. We respond the way we do because we have unresolved fear within ourselves. When you react a certain way towards your child, ask yourself, why did I react this way and explore how it made you feel.

  5. Fantastic. But, I ask why do we immediately respond in our brain with “oh no… That was disrespectful?”. What is the fear response parents have to this grumbling? Why do we have the fear response? Thx!

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