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children not listening

Question

Hello. A tiny bit about us: I had 5 children in 4.5 years: 3 girls then twin boys, now 6, 4.5, 3, & 18 mos (x2). I stay at home and do not work. The 6 yr old is in Kinder and other two girls preschool a few days a week.

My two oldest girls (6 & 4.5 & VERY strong willed) have been talking back, sassing, or just generally being disrespectful a LOT lately. Not only shouting "NO" when asking to complete a task but comments like "I'm never going to talk to you again! I don't love you anymore! I don't want to live here anymore! That is not the way you talk to me, Mom!" In addition, sticking their tongues out at us, or lightly (sometimes not so lightly) hitting us - especially once a punishment/reprimand has started from above behavior. Sometimes also just the quiet, almost under the breathe, back talk or sticking just a TIP of the tongue out happens and I don't know how to respond. And this sassy talk is now one of the current forms of fighting with each other too. I know sibling fighting is normal - but when does it cross the line?

Our usual punishments include (for these or other infractions) hour-long time-outs; shorter, more frequent time-outs; and occasional spankings. We tried multiple weeks of early bedtimes (for other infractions) - but honestly it ended up only being about 15-25 min early because of our dinner/bedtime schedule. I've also heard of mouth soap washing or vinegar spraying for "sins of the mouth" - but I can never get my kids to open their mouths for this (go figure). What are some other appropriate consequences for this age and this behavior? Also, how do you handle this behavior in public, if differently? And lastly, my oldest in particular, gets to a new heightened level of disobedience once I've calmly stated a punishment - more hitting, kicking, screaming, worse sass, etc. Do I punish this "reactionary behavior" the same or differently if at all?

Would love any advice on this matter. I'm so beat down.

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