I could go on and on and on about this, but I'll try to be brief: my DD is 6, in the middle of kindergarten at a wonderful literature magnet school in our neighborhood, going to aftercare for a few hours every day.
She's always shown a little sass, but lately it's taken off. Eye-rolling, huffing, stomping, "what-EVER" ing, talking back, clamming up, arguing, picking at every. little. thing. I feel like she's an adolescent and I am not ready for that. :)
She doesn't watch television, so I don't think she's picking it up there, though on occasion when we are visiting out of state family she will watch some of the awful kid-coms that are rife with attitude. There are a few 10-ish year old kids in her aftercare that probably lend some examples.
Regardless of where it's coming from, I don't know what to do about it. We usually just ask her to "try again," and give her a second chance to not be so abrasive. When that doesn't work, we send her to her room until she's ready to come out and speak kindly and respectfully to the rest of the family (me, DH, and 2YO DD).
I don't want to completely restrict her speech and expression-- we all get pissed off, me included. But I'm at a loss when it comes to teaching her the difference between being a jerk and being irritated. Sometimes I don't think she even IS irritated, I think she's just pushing buttons & boundaries.
She's always been really great at talking about her feelings-- telling us when she feels embarrassed, hurt, or shy. It's the huffing and shutting down that's got me rattled. And it's hard not to bristle and respond angrily myself, which I realize just gives her a reaction which is probably what she's looking for.
Does this happen in your house?
I also have a six (almost seven year old) and when she started after care I noticed an uptick in the "tone." She was definitely trying on some of the attitudes she heard from the older girls. I told her it wasn't okay to talk to me like that, but it was fine with her dolls. She now will play act with her dolls on occasion with the "tone" and it gave her an outlet. I also make a point of praising her when I hear a good way of expressing herself. I also make sure she has some time to talk to me alone each day. Although she will still be sassy now and then, it doesn't sound like an echo of someone else.
I think it's the age.
They're fairly young, and tend to think in all-or-nothing terms (it's developmentally the age), and have a great sense of self -- they have no doubt they can be the best at everything. The problem is that they're still learning the impact of their words, and they don't have a great repertoire of different ways of saying things. They've got a lot to learn in terms of appropriate language use. So even though they sound very sophisticated, it's often a combination of not realizing how their words are coming across + very definite opinions that makes their speech sound so abrasive. They sound like they're 13, but they don't mean to.
OP, we did all the things that you're doing. In addition, we sometimes modeled for dd what we'd like her to say instead. "did you mean, "No thank you, I don't care for any?"" Sometimes I'd do it in a more playful way "Oh no no, you meant to say "Oh kind, darling, brilliant mother dear, could you possibly interrupt your important work to get me a glass of water?" Dd found that particularly funny if she was in the mood.
But mostly we said "that sounded rude, try again," sent her to her room when she couldn't, and talked a lot about things that you could say at home, but not outside of the home. Dd has a tendency to rant (really, there's no other word for it), and I did occasionally tell her: "I will listen to this complaint for another 5 minutes, and then I'm done."
Dd is 7 1/2 and we're slowly seeing improvement. I'd say I'd seen a lot of improvement in the last month at home. Improvement at school came first.
So, to make a long explanation short -- when I see this as a language problem (dd needs to learn and practice the appropriate language to use), I get less frustrated and less worried that her teen-aged years are going to be hell.
I just arrived at my (peaceful) office after another rotten, icy-glare and stomping morning with DD. I took her aside and told her that when she speaks to me disrespectfully, it really hurts my feelings. Also that she is such a kind and likable person, and that when she talks to other people this way, they won't want to be around her. It seemed to work-- she turned the ship around. Language problem, like you said.
And worrying about her teenage years being hell-- I think that's what makes this issue seem like such a crisis. I need to separate from that a bit and focus on her sass-pants 6YO self.
And taking time to talk to her alone each day-- YES YES YES. You are so right. I try, but it's easy to cheat on that idea with so much other madness going on. Excellent reminder.
Thanks, y'all. Would love to hear other ideas & comments, too!
What helped me at this age was to change the way I looked at it from "she's being rude" to "she hasn't learned how to be polite yet" and then respond from that attitude. "It makes me angry when you ask me in that way. It would make me feel better if you said something like 'X' instead." "If you tell people 'X', it will make them upset. You'll probably find using other words works better." And then remind her every single time until it becomes a habit to speak nicely. I feel like it can become a habit to speak rudely, and it can take time and consistency to break that habit and get another one going.