What to Do When Children Talk Back
As a stay-at-home mom who also works online part time, I find my online mom friends to be a valuable source of parenting advice and comfort. Recently I asked what parenting challenge is currently at the top of the list, and nearly every mom answered that they’re dealing with attitude and back talk, even from kids as young as three. The collective “YES!” from the group was almost audible through the words on the screen. We’re all in this together, experiencing the same trials and tribulations of raising our children. So how do we all get out of it together…
Tips for Dealing with Children with “Attitude”:
1. Do Not Fight Back – My six year old is in the throngs of eye-rolling and back-talking right now as she finishes her first year in elementary school and enjoys the increase in confidence level that comes with that. Each time she tosses a zinger my way, a little voice in my head resorts to, “I know you are, but what am I.” You’ve got a lifetime of comebacks stored away, but now is not the time to use them. Instead, disengage from the developing argument and dig deep to rise above the bickering.
2. Do Not Overreact – I can take a building block to the head, an intentionally spilled glass of milk, and even a blatant big sister hair pull, but when my children look at me and say, “No, Mom, I won’t do that,” something inside me snaps. I immediately become every cliché parent wanting to tell my children that they’re ungrateful, I will stop this car and make them get out, or my favorite line from Bill Cosby, “I brought you into this world…and I can take you back out!” Into every parent’s life a little back-talk must fall, so just take a deep breath. The last thing that you want to do is escalate the moment.
3. Remind Them of Their Choices – My husband and I often utilize a style of parenting called Conscious Discipline that focuses on the choices children make, placing the responsibility for the consequences in their hands, not ours. When children decide to refuse to follow parent instructions, they are doing just that – deciding. Remind your kids that they have made the choice to a.) not follow directions and therefore b.) lose a privilege, have a time out, miss an event. Often when children realize the ramifications of the choice they have made, they will decide to re-evaluate that choice…and the attitude.
4. Make Clear Rules and Follow Through – If you’ve noticed back-talk and attitude creeping into your children’s vernacular, it might be time for a family meeting. Choose one or two of the most offensive behaviors, and create a chart or sign that reminds your child that it will simply not be tolerated. Be sure to include a consequence for that behavior, hang the chart in a heavily trafficked area such as the kitchen, and even consider having your children sign a contract. The toughest part, of course, is always the follow through. Be sure to stick to the plan because staying consistent is key.
5. Listen – We all get busy from time to time and find that it’s tough to take those precious moments and really listen to our children, but if you’re hearing a lot of anger and attitude coming from your kids, perhaps they’re just trying to find a louder voice in the family. Be sure to take the time that your children need to really listen to what they’re saying. By listening more to our kids, we may suddenly find that we like what we hear.
What is your biggest parenting struggle right now, and what tips do you have for dealing back talk?