How to Stop Kids from Talking Back?

How to Stop Kids from Talking BackDr. Kelly Flanagan, an American clinical psychologist and writer, has a blog post titled “The Reason Every Kid Should Talk Back to Their Parents”. The title is horrifying.

We’ve always considered back talk a sign of disrespect and to think that it can actually be justified can quite be well – unimaginable.

But read through the post and you’ll find that Dr. Flanagan talks more about supporting children to have personal boundaries and the ability to say no to bad choices that will surely come their way in the future.

He says and I quote:

When my son is offered a bunch of pills or my daughter is offered the backseat of a car, I want my kids to have had a lot of practice at saying “No.” Someday, there will be more at stake than a bunch of Lego action figures and, by then, I want them to know their worth isn’t jeopardized one iota when they don’t give themselves away to everyone around them.
I want them to know their voice matters.
I want them to know they are the author of their own story.

Stop Kids from Talking Back to Parents

A study made by researchers from the University of Virginia and published in the journal Child Development seems to back this up. The study found that teens who learned to calmly argue and negotiate with their parents acted the same way when they were with their peers.

They were able to confidently disagree, saying “no” when offered alcohol or drugs. In fact, they were 40 percent more likely to say “no” than kids who didn’t argue with their parents.

Psychologist Joseph P. Allen who headed the study said that almost all parents and teenagers argue. But it’s the quality of the arguments that makes all the difference.

According to him, parents should think of those arguments not as nuisance but as a critical training ground. Such arguments, he says, are actually mini life lessons in how to disagree — a necessary skill later on in life with partners, friends and colleagues on the job.

Teens should be rewarded when arguing calmly and persuasively and not when they indulge in yelling, whining, threats or insults, he says.

Dr. Flangan’s final words in his post best sum this up. He believes that children do need to learn to set boundaries assertively rather than aggressively.

One way children set boundaries aggressively is through back talk. Merriam Webster defines back talk as “rude speech in reply to someone who should be spoken to with respect”.

Kids talking Back to Parents

How then should parents deal with back talk?

Here are a few strategies:

Keep your composure

Don’t overreact to your child’s mouthing off or get into a power struggle over his choice of words or his tone. And, of course, never answer in kind. The best way to teach your child to speak respectfully is to do so yourself. Tell him, “I think you can find a better way to say that.”

A knee-jerk response (“Don’t be such a brat!”) won’t set a very good example and will only add to his frustration.

Determine the Root Cause

Back talk isn’t always a true expression of your child’s feelings, and the reason might be rooted in something unrelated to you. Maybe your son is having problems with a friend in school and taking it out on you because he feels you’re a safe target.

Or perhaps he’s stressed about homework and screaming at you to get out of his room. If this happens, remain calm and collected, and ask questions to get to the root of the problem. (“Did something happen today at school?” or “Did you say that because you need some time alone?”)

Figuring out the reason behind the snappy comeback can make it easier to understand and resolve the issue.

Set limits ahead of time

Make sure your child understands what is – and isn’t – okay to say. So if you don’t appreciate his sarcastic responses to earnest explanations, make that clear.

Let him know what behaviors are off-limits too. “It looks disrespectful when I talk to you and you roll your eyes. Please don’t do that.”

Do some sleuthing

Ask yourself if he could be imitating an attitude he sees in movies or on TV. Kids on comedy shows may get a big laugh when they talk back, but let him know it’s not so funny in real life. Monitor the shows your child watches to make sure he’s not picking up the wrong message.

Recognize and encourage good behavior

Kids who get noticed with hugs and compliments when they do something right, and who spend even a few minutes of positive, quality time with their parents every day are less likely to act out to get your attention.

As a final word, allow your kids to have their own voice, but guide them in finding the best way to speak and share their opinions. Help them grow to be assertive and confident instead of aggressive and arrogant. Teach them also to respect others, not only through their tone, but also, through valuing other people’s thoughts and feelings, even if they differ from their own.

Stop Kids from Talking Back

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