Nothing makes correcting a child more frustrating than to have him constantly “back talk” or offer a response or defense to everything you say. It’s doubly upsetting if those retorts are disrespectful!
So how do you nip this back talk habit? Much of it relies on laying a foundation of respect. Next, move on to the nitty-gritty of targeting the talking back and taking it on! You don’t have to do it alone. We’re in it with you! And while you don’t want to engage in a lot of back-and-forth verbal volleyball with your child, sometimes the right response can calm the waters and defuse common kid tactics to distract from the real issues.
A wise mom will measure her words carefully when responding to back talk so that parental authority doesn’t dissolve in a verbal tug of war. The last thing you want to do is engage in a lengthy back-and-forth with your child. This only encourages future arguments about rules and boundaries. But on those occasions when you think your child’s back talk deserves or needs a response, here are some wise words when your children talk back.
“That’s not fair!”
Children like to believe that the only just way for them to be treated is exactly the same as their siblings or friends. But fair isn’t the same as equal or identical.
Mom Response: “I will always try to treat you and your brothers and sisters fairly, but I won’t always treat you the same. That’s because you are each different, just like everyone in the world is different from each other.”
“Everyone else gets to do it!”
Kids like to pressure parents by comparing them to other parents.
Mom Response: “Well, what other parents choose to do may not be right for us. In our family we believe _____________, so that’s how we’ll decide about this too.”
“You don’t trust me.”
Older kids will try to guilt parents who set boundaries by acting as if the implied lack of trust is damaging your parent-child relationship.
Mom Response: “Even if I trust you, which I do, my main job is to keep you safe. So in this case, it’s not about trusting you, it’s about keeping you safe and/or looking out for what you need.
“I don’t have to do what you say.”
This is one of those cases of back talk that shows defiance and disrespect, and should be dealt with accordingly.
Mom Response: Mom looks behind her and says, “Who are you talking to? I know you’re not talking to me.” That’s the “give them a chance to correct their attitude” approach. You can follow it with, “Okay, maybe you want to try that again.” If they don’t get the point and keep talking back, take a stronger approach, “I am your parent, and whether you think that I’m right or wrong, you owe me respect and obedience. Because your attitude and words are showing neither, your consequence is…” (Note: this only has value if the consequence has impact and you have the backbone to enforce it.)
This is the ploy of the child who wants to get in the last word. You’ve said your piece, but they won’t let it drop. They either keep pushing or they mumble under their breath. Either way, it’s a power play.
Mom Response: “Okay, I’ve listened to what you have to say and I’ve asked you to stop talking.” From there you can either say, “If you want to get to __________, you will not say another word.” Or, “If you say another word about this, I will _____________.”
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