What To Do When Your Child Talks Back

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All parents at one time or another have been affected by this childhood issue…children talking back.   And boy can this be a worrisome and often difficult situation for parents to deal with, especially in a public forum.  Certainly, I think that everyone agrees that talking back is a normal part of development, which usually begins to rear its ugly head around the preschool years.

Like many other unwelcomed childhood behaviors, the key element to prevention is trying to “nip it in the bud” in its early stages before it becomes accepted behavior.  Laying the foundation for what is acceptable behavior and speech will aid their understanding of how they are expected to appropriately interact within all their relationships, including adults as well as their peers.

So here are some tips to assist families with how to deal with back talk from their children.

Start Early by Nipping it in the Bud

· Be ProactiveTake the time to document and pinpoint when the “talking back” normally occurs and develop a plan around that daily routine.  For instance, if your child normally talks back around their morning routine.  This behavior may surface because they don’t want to wake up in the morning or they have difficulty picking out their clothes.  Be proactive by setting out the clothes the night before, in order to avoid the talking back in the morning, when your child is already tired and rushed and frankly more apt to display this unwanted chatter.  Providing structure and sticking to a deal routine will automatically set you up for fewer instances of this unwanted behavior.

· Be Clear on Your Expectations –Keep in mind, especially when dealing with small children, to be specific about what you feel is appropriate behavior and what is not.  Don’t just say they are being rude or that is unacceptable behavior.  Be specific and state that when I ask you do to do something, such as pick up your toys, I expect you to do it.  Then further explain that they are not allowed to say “no”.

·  Be Firm and ConsistentRemember to be very clear when you are setting the perimeters about “talking back “and remind them that they will not receive any attention or rewards if they respond with back talk.  It is important to deliver a consistent message to your child…every time.  Try to remain calm and in your normal tone when your child does talk back. Then restate that you will continue the conversation in the dining room when they are ready to use nice words with you and not mean ones.  Then walk away, without any other discussion.  Be consistent and ensure that you respond in a similar fashion when they talk back.  After a few times they will get the message and know you mean business.

· Accountability –If the back talk continues and your child is able to grasp what your expectations are, then it’s time for consequences.  At this time you need to be specific about what will and will not be tolerated and relate the consequence accordingly.  For instance, when you say________, then we will have to leave the store, playground or wherever you maybe and return home.  Let them know that every behavior has a consequence.

· Recognize the Appropriate or Positive Behavior –Don’t forget to acknowledge the positive.  Make a big deal out of when your child is being respectful, or eliciting polite and courteous responses to your questions.   Especially if they have been rude in the past during a similar situation.  And be specific.

· Role Model – Keep in mind that you are the best role model for your child when it comes to displaying positive behavior in a courteous manner. If you are talking back to co-workers, friends or other family members then you can’t expect your child to do any differently.  Often children copy the behavior of the prominent adult in their life…which is us as parents and caregivers.  So, do the right thing and remember to treat others as you would like to be treated in return.  You know the old saying “actions speak louder than words.”  It’s true!!!!  

We all know that talking back can often be difficult for many parents and caregivers.  Keep in mind that there are many tricks to the trade to make it easier for everyone.  Remember to be consistent, set boundaries and consequences, be a good role model and offer choices to your children to encourage the desired behaviors.  If you follow through then and only then will you see results.

Kelli Didomenico brings over 20 years of experience to her role as Director of Family Engagement at The Children’s Workshop.  In her role she welcomes and supports children and families directly but also supports the company’s center Directors to encourage families to become actively involved in their child’s education through parent committees, family events, and by volunteering in our classrooms.  Additionally, she reaches out to form partnerships that enhance the services that The Children’s Workshop can provide for its families.  Kelli earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work from Rhode Island College.