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Wise Words When Your Children Talk Back

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Nothing makes correcting children more frustrating than to have them talk back constantly or offer a defense to everything you say. It’s doubly upsetting if those retorts are disrespectful. So how do you nip this habit?

A wise mom will measure her words carefully when responding to a kid who talks back 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 snarky reply 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 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: “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 backtalk that shows defiance and disrespect and should be dealt with accordingly.

Mom Response: Look behind you and say, “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, “OK, 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 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.)

“Mumble, mumble.”

This is the ploy of children who want to get in the last word. You’ve said your piece, but they won’t drop it. They either keep pushing or they mumble under their breath. Either way, it’s a power play.

Mom Response: “OK, 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 __________.”

And while you want to choose wise words, there are also 15 things moms should never say.

What wise words do you have when your children talk back?


How do you get the courage to try again when you fail at something?

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