I'm not talking toddler tantrums because their banana broke in half, or the moon is following them, or their straw is pointing the wrong way. I'm talking Bart-style cheek from children old enough to know what a consequence is, even if they couldn't spell it if all the Alphablocks got together and did a choreographed demonstration on the kitchen table.
Recently we went on holiday to a French campsite with a group of children of varying ages. They all befriended more children until it was like Lord of The Flies with baguettes.
My five-year-old son isn't an evil minded boy, but is prone to moodiness and unreasonable stubborn foot stomping. Soon, the mixture of trying to impress older boys and access to the campsite sweetie grabber machine led to a landslide of shrugs, sneers and back chat.
Everything I said was questioned and argued with, sullen sulks went on for hours and the hugs he loves so much were met with a shudder and 'MUUUUUUUUM!'.
I knew this was going to happen one day. But I was thinking more when he was 13, not five.
He can barely wipe his own bottom and already I've got a teenage dirtbag who has the same gobby 'tude as the lads who draw willies on the climbing frame at the playpark with marker pen. Where's my boy gone?
Now I'm not saying that your kids should be your friends. Absolutely not. You are The Boss and they are little pipsqueaks and that's how the world should work. Otherwise you've got Suri Cruise shouting 'Don't you know who I am?' at the frozen yoghurt stand or Junior Andre driving his electric mini Porsche into the window of Snappy Snaps.
But it pains me that my sweet boy has started to develop personality traits I would normally associate with someone serving two years for public disorder offences at Her Majesty's Pleasure.
And all I seem to do is shout. Then he copies me and shouts at his friends. ARRRRRGH. Can't we just have a nice time? Hang out and watch a Ben 10 DVD, or have a weepy, futile game of Kerplunk?
Of course, there's more to it than just plain naughtiness. According to that famous parenting book Raising Boys, from around four years old, boys have more testosterone pinging about in their little bodies than they'll have until they hit puberty. That's a hell of a lot of man hormones with nowhere to go.
Plus there's peer pressure, competitiveness and the need to imitate that comes with learning to navigate the world. It's no wonder heads can get turned. But whether you've got a boy or a girl, no amount of touchy-feely psychology can stop cheeky behaviour being the most irritating thing since Justin Lee Collins tried to find the A-Team.
So what do you do when your child becomes a stinkbomb of bad attitude, borrowed phrases, swearing and swagger? Gentle coaxing? Mature sit-down chats? Or do you do a Homer and strangle the little @*!@*?
Mother of three, Joy, leads by (bad) example: "I tend to point out anti-social people in the street and then ask the children if that's what they want to be like. Usually the answer is no, so I tell them to change their attitude otherwise they will become like them. Fear works wonders."
"I tell mine I'm going to a hotel for the night," says Abigail. "The threat of abandonment goes a long way. My mum used to say she was 'getting a train to Penzance' when she'd had enough of us."
"I ban telly," says Fiona. "My daughter says she doesn't care, until I start to unplug it and pretend to carry it out of the room. Little does she know I'm too feeble to lift it up."
Aside from threats, others take a slightly different tack, from Zen calm to making them laugh. "Lots of deep breaths, perspective and calmness – remember you probably used to act that way, too," says Karlie.
"The only way I can diffuse a bad attitude attack is to make her laugh," says Graham, father of an eight-year-old girl. "We have a similar sense of humour, so it usually works."
Alistair favours the softly softly scary monkey approach. "The main thing is not to raise your voice. Lower it instead, so it sounds angry but has more authority. Then take away something they like."
But typically it's the child-free who have the last laugh, unfettered by whingeing, whining Barts. "My advice would be for all ladies to keep their knees together in the first place," says my friend Jacqueline.
As Marge would say: 'Grrrrrrrrr.'
Has your child gone through bad attitude phases? What worked for you?
More:Advice And Health
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