One of the most challenging discipline issues that parents have to face is dealing with a child who talks back to them. Although it is a normal stage of development, but that does not necessarily makes it any easier to deal with. Talking back can be caused due to a variety of reasons. It could be mainly due to the child trying to control his/her own life, for example deciding on what to wear, what to eat or what to do. It is important to recognise when the child is backtalking and then to teach them to express themselves in a more respectful way.
Remaining Composed – As much as it can be quite tempting to shout back or speak back to the child when they are talking back at you, you would rather want them to observe that that is not a good method to handle conflict. Instead, you would want to remain calm, take a deep breath, going into another room and doing whatever else can be done to stop the situation from escalating.
Establish what expected behaviours are – In order to eradicate any behaviour or to ensure that unacceptable behaviours are not practised; it is important to be clear about what methods are acceptable to express themselves. Eye-rolling, lip-smacking, staring, saying words such as ‘Fine’, ‘Whatever’ are not acceptable ways of expression and thus must be communicated. At times it might take a few reminders for the children to really learn what is expected out of them, so you’ll have to provide them a few chances initially.
Putting consequences in place – If disrespectful behaviour does not have consequences attached to it and such behaviour is overlooked, it can encourage children to keep behaving the same way. It is equally important to communicate the consequences beforehand, so that the child can weigh whether he/she wants to behave in a negative way. For example, telling them if they scream or do eye-rolling, they will not get dessert for dinner.
Look out for patterns – Keep a track of when the child does back talking. For example, is it after school, after extracurricular activities or after coming back from a play date, etc. This way you can look into eliminating any events that trigger or become the reason for the child to talk back. Of course the child will still have to learn to speak politely, but at least this way you can reduce the situations in which the child behaves otherwise.
Show and ask for respect – It is alright, in fact a good sign that the child wants to express their opinion. Having said that, children must be communicated that their adults are listening to them and they can express their opinion as long as they are respectful. Ensure to communicate it to them that you would not listen to them unless they speak in a calm and polite manner.
As disturbing and challenging as it can be to deal with backtalking by children, remember that having a positive attitude towards dealing with it can only help resolve such behaviours. And since children learn best through observational learning, remember that the calmer you would be whilst handling such a situation, the more the child will learn to respond in a more polite manner.
If you are looking for professional support on this issue, you can book an appointment here.
Mahnoor Nadeem is a student of Masters in Clinical and Health Psychology in Lithuania and a Trainee Psychologist at Willingness. She enjoys working with children and adolescents and also exploring topics such as health psychology, family therapy and sexual health.
Lee, K. (2020). How to Stay Calm When Your Child Starts Talking Back to You. Retrieved from : https://www.verywellfamily.com/how-to-handle-a-child-who-is-talking-back-620102
McCready, A. (2021). 5 Steps To Put the Brakes on Backtalk. Retrieved from : https://www.positiveparentingsolutions.com/parenting/five-steps-to-put-the-brakes-on-back-talk