"My eight-year-old acts like a teenager: she does what SHE wants to do, talks back to me and generally just has attitude." "My teenager is a teenager and I can't get him to respond to me at all; everything is just a shrug of the shoulders and, if I'm lucky, some sort of mumble. I don't know what happened to my sweet little boy, but I'm certainly not enjoying this taller version of him!"

Parenting can be very frustrating – from the first toddler rebellions to the teenage upheavals and everything in between. It's certainly not just one smooth ride. Parents can try their best to create a pleasant and loving home atmosphere but kids have to do what they have to do to break out of their shells. They are on a mission to discover their unique selves and this involves separating their will from their parents' wills. "I can't be me if I'm you," would be the motto of the journey. "If I do everything your way, then I'm you, not me," would be a similar sentiment. In other words, it's not that kids want to be non-compliant so much as they have to be at times in order to find themselves. Enter "attitude." Attitude says, "No way! That's not my idea of what to do!"

Of course, there is one little problem with "attitude." It is not acceptable for a Jewish child to show his or her parents disrespect. Attitude is the embodiment of disrespect. It carries the wrong tone of voice, the wrong body posture and often, the wrong verbal communication." It's wrong, wrong, wrong! How, then, can Jewish parents help their kids individuate – find themselves and their unique place in this universe – while still teaching them the 5th commandment of the Torah where it states, "Honor your father and mother?"

A child who acts respectfully toward his or her parents does not have to agree with the parents on every issue or even do exactly what the parents want done. For instance, a child is allowed to choose a particular person as a spouse, even if the parents don't approve of that person. However, the child is NOT allowed to verbally abuse the parents in the process! Similarly, parents and kids may disagree about what's good to eat for dinner. Yet, the child cannot show "attitude" while expressing his own opinion. ("Mom, is it possible for you to make hamburgers once in a while instead of broccoli pie?" versus "No way! I'm not eating that disgusting food!")

Parents can certainly encourage independent activity and thinking without encouraging poor social skills. Nor is it necessary to squash the child in the process of teaching him the skills of polite and courteous interpersonal communication. Rather, the two goals can be pursued simultaneously: to raise a "mentsch" means to raise a person (someone with his own mind) and a gentleman (someone who is pleasant to be around).

So let's keep our eyes on two balls at once. Don't accept attitude. Do encourage personality!