My 5.5 yo DD is a really delightful kid-- she is kind, bright, and very funny; a compassionate big sister and a very good conversationalist. But for some reason, when she is in a situation where she needs to interact with other adults (dinner guests, church friends, neighbors, even aunts & uncles) she flips on this sassy brat alter-ego that drives me completely bananas.
I know it's her shy defense, and I know she's a little kid who is trying to figure it out... but it's such an inaccurate representation of the kid she is, and it's embarrassing for both of us-- she knows it's inappropriate, and I eventually have to pull her aside or otherwise intervene when it gets over the top. Specifically, there is eye-rolling, loud and snapping tone, and phrases like "talk to the hand." (ARE YOU KIDDING ME? WHO ARE YOU!?!?!?!)
The influencing factors I can think of are:
A daycare teacher that we really love, but who is often sassy, but in a fun and silly way-- I think a lot of the phrases are hers but just very poorly translated in tone; other kids at daycare, one in particular; the !*#^#*&# Disney Channel School of Charm lessons she received during a weekend stay w/ grandparents a few months ago (we don't have cable-- this was brand new to her, but even the Electric Company on PBS can get a little attitudey-- what is up with kids' shows and the yelling bratty dialogue? Am I a weird old lady now?)
I've tried praising (maybe even over-praising) her when she acts like her awesome self in social situations, but those opportunities seem to be less and less frequent. She's starting to have playdates at other kids' houses and I don't want her to act that way to other parents when I'm not around to help redirect (not that it's all that effective anyway). When it happens at home I try not to give her a big reaction, but just tell her "try again," and she almost always changes her tone-- but when we're out and about it's so magnified, and gentle redirection seems to have no effect/ opposite effect sometimes.
If you have ever lived or are currently living life with an almost-kindergarten girl, weigh in... how can I help her shed this brat armor before it becomes a part of her personality?
I read once about a mom who talked to her kids about public behavior beforehand so that they understood it wasn't okay and then they came up with a secret hand sign that they both agreed on so that mom could let the kids know that what they were doing wasn't appropriate (like they talked about) and it gave her a way to help them recognize their behavior and correct it without outing them in public because no one else knew what it meant.
Our shy daughter uses a baby voice sometimes when she is in social situations. So awkward and she is such a smart, well-spoken little girl! I have, unfortunately, no advice for you... I find my instinct with our daughter is to shame her out of it, which I try hard not to do and would NOT advise. You are wise to recognize that it's her "armor".
I LOVE this idea. Thank you so much! Definitely going to try this with her... seems like something she would really respond to.