Q. Teachers have complained that my two children are argumentative and sometimes even disrespectful. When I ask the kids why they argued or were disrespectful, their response is that they didn't like the way the teacher talked to them, so that the reason they argue and their comments are being interpreted as disrespectful. How do I handle the teachers?

A. If you have evidence that the teacher(s) are being demeaning, abusive, or disrespectful to the students, discuss that with the school principal. Other than that, your concern is with the behaviors exhibited by your two children. Remember, bad behaviors are an attempt to solve a problem for which the person doesn't possess the requisite skills. So the specific issue is less important than the children's need to learn functional problem-solving skills and exhibit behaviors that give them a positive outcome. Your role-modeling will be key. Here are a few comments.

Stop asking your children "why." It is just an invitation for them to give you an excuse for their behavior (and it will only be their brain's opinion anyway, because that's all any brain has). There is no excuse for bad behavior. Discussing excuses just detracts from the issue at hand, which is how to exhibit acceptable behaviors next time. That is the children's job and responsibility: to exhibit good behaviors. No excuses.

Adults teach children how to treat them. If they are arguing with the teacher(s) and being disrespectful, it is highly likely they are doing the same with you. Arguing and disrespect are usually attempts to take the spotlight off the child and turn it back on the adult through blaming. This only works if the adult picks up the blame responsibility, gets side-tracked from the real issues, and allows the bad behaviors to continue. Figure out what problem-solving skills your children (and/or you) need to develop in order to exhibit good behaviors. Then start role modeling those skills and expect the same from your children. What do you as a parent exhibit? Role model respect and no arguing.

For example, if the child says, "I forgot my homework because the teacher had a bad day," your response might be: "Everyone has a bad day from time to time. Homework is your responsibility. Finish it now." Then you turn around and walk away. Engaging in further conversation about how bad the teacher's day was, how unfair life is, how you don't understand the child (or whatever) is unhelpful and puts the "power of delaying" in the hands of the child.