I expected it: some parents got defensive after the last post (All That Attitude). “But,” they said, “what if I’m speaking in a calm and reasonable tone and I still get attitude?”
That’s when you use “The One,” which is simply your index finger pointed up, as in “Wait.” Don’t comment on the attitude and don’t reply to what’s being said (it’s probably just to bait you anyway); instead, say, “Wow. I don’t feel very respected by your tone (or words). Could you try that again, but more respectfully, please?” As lame as it may sound, I have almost 100 percent success with this.
If the comment is repeated in a nicer tone, then respond pleasantly or with empathy, depending on what is said. For example, your reply to “Why do I have to do all the work around here?” might be, “It feels like it sometimes, doesn’t it? I can totally relate.”
If it’s out of line no matter the tone, as in, “I said, ‘I hate my brother,'” don’t overreact. You can deflect attitude by being neutral – try shrugging and saying, “Seems like everybody feels that way once in awhile.” No need to lecture on using “hate” or other strong language; by middle school, they’ve heard it. Again, you’re being baited.
If the comment isn’t repeated because the speaker knows it’s over the line, or because not repeating it is a power ploy (“Just forget it”), then let it go. End the conversation. Change the subject. Avoid getting sucked into a battle that isn’t related to anything else.
It takes patience and willpower to head off an Incident, and you may need to phone a friend to vent afterward, but stick with it and you’ll see the dreaded Attitude diminish.
(Just be sure you’re not the one who invites it back.)