Stop Back Talk - What to Do When Your Child Is Talking Back

discipline disrespect grade-school (5-12) preschool (3-5) teen (12-18) toddler (1-3) Mar 29, 2018

Smart mouth, snappy, giving lip, sassy! It doesn’t matter what you call it, it’s not ok. In this video, we are dealing with kids “talking back” to parents. Why do they do it, and how can we stop it?

Every parent will experience some form of back talk from their child. While it certainly can happen earlier dependent on their environment, most kids start to do this around 5 or 6 years old. Pushing back and testing their boundaries is a part of growing. The key is for us to teach them how to push back. We need to teach them how to communicate effectively. Jane Nelson, author of Positive Discipline says that “when a child talks back, what they are really expressing is anger, frustration, fear, or hurt.” So if your child is talking back, they are probably feeling something but don’t know how to express it.

Well, what can we do about it? Here are some tips and things to keep in mind:

#1 – It’s normal behavior for young kids – Don’t freak out that your child talked back to you or start to think you are living with the devil. The key is to curb the behavior early so they don’t continue it as they get older.

#2 – Don’t take it personally – Remember, something else is typically going on. It may have nothing to do with you. If you approach it in that way, you will be better equipped to teach them better ways of communicating.

#3 – When they are young – Offer Options – Backtalk can often present itself when they don’t get their way. So give them alternatives of which you are ok with either choice: “We are not going to watch TV right now. Would you rather read a book or play with your legos? They get to feel like they are still in control which can help reduce arguments.

#4 – Ignore them – This may not be possible in all situations but if you are at home or in a place where you can do this, it can be a good one. They want you to engage. When you ignore them, they begin to learn that the bad behavior is not going to get the response they want.

#5 – Show empathy – Because there could be something else going on, showing empathy may help diffuse the situation. For example, you might say; “You are really mad about not being able to watch TV. I can understand how that can be frustrating.”

#6 – Give warnings on time – A lot of battles are over time: coming inside for dinner, only playing a video game for so long, etc. Provide warning of how much time is left for the activity. “Hey, you have 5 minutes and then you are done.”

#7 – Connect with Them – It may simply be that they need more attention from you. Check in with yourself and them and see if it’s something you can provide. If not right at the moment, schedule it with them and let them know when it will happen. “Hey, after dinner, do you want to play some cards? I’d love to play with you.”

#8 – Set & Follow House Rules – If speaking respectfully is a house rule, you better make sure you are doing the same. You may have to accept that they are learning the snappy attitude from you or they are hearing you yell at them frequently.

#9 – Positive Re-inforcement – Nothing works better than to re-enforce good behavior. While you may be ignoring the negative behavior, make a big deal about the good behavior. “I really appreciated that you cleaned up your toys when I asked you to. That was very helpful.”


Enjoy this article?
Get unlimited access to Dad University

The #1 educational platform for dads. Join our growing community of fathers from around the world!

Become a Member