It can be a shock when your kids start talking back to you. As disheartening as it can be, backtalk is pretty typical from grade school into teenage years. Throughout this time, kids may feel the urge to rebel, try to gain some power, or are looking for attention. There can be different reasons as to why kids talk back, and the best thing you can do is get a handle on it as soon as it happens, or even before. Here are 6 tips on what to do when kids talk back!
Backtalking 101: Why Do Kids Do It?
Backtalking is when a child responds in a rude way that tends to challenge authority. It typically consists of kids wanting to have the last word, rolling their eyes, and barking back particular phrases like “yeah, right”, “give me a break” or “whatever”. When they talk back to you, they’re testing the limits of what they can get away with or may be trying to tell you something about something that’s going on internally. There are a number of reasons why kids talk back. Here are 4 common ones below.
- They Want Attention. Talking back grabs your attention, and if your child is feeling ignored, even negative attention is better than none. This may surface during times of transition, such as a new baby, moving homes, or a change in a parent’s work schedule. If your child talks back it’s possible they may be feeling neglected and are doing it to make you notice them.
- Trouble at School. Your child may be going through something at school, such as a fight with friends or being bullied. They may not know where to place their anger and frustration so they end up talking back to you. Displaced anger is common in kids, especially if they haven’t learned how to express their emotions properly.
- They Crave Control. Kids don’t have a lot of control – they’re often being told what to do and how to behave. Sometimes kids want to assert power over their parents and let them know they won’t be bossed around. We all want some control over our lives, and if they feel like they’re being smothered or are powerless at home, they may talk back to try to gain some control.
- Unclear Rules. Are there a lack of rules in your house, or are you wishy washy about enforcing them? Are the rules consistent across both parents and other family members? If rules are unclear, it can lead to behavioural issues and backtalk. If your partner lets your kids get away with certain things that you put your foot down for, they may talk back to you to try to get their way.
What To Do When Kids Talk Back
1. Keep Your Composure
When kids talk back, it’s tempting to get angry at them. However, try your best to keep your composure and not overreact. The last thing you want is a shouting match between you and your child.
Teach them to speak respectfully by doing so yourself. Try something like “I think you can find a better way to say that” or “ can you please speak to me more respectfully.” Knee-jerk responses such as “don’t be such a brat” or “don’t you dare talk to me that way!” don’t set a very good example and lead to a power struggle between parent and child.
2. Look for Patterns
Does your child typically talk back to you when they just get home from school? Or after extracurricular activities? Or maybe they’re particularly nasty when they don’t get a good night’s sleep. Look for patterns on when they backtalk so you can work on changing or eliminating triggers if possible.
3. Talk to Your Child
If your child is talking back, there could be something going on with them personally. Whether they’re feeling ignored by you or are having trouble with friends, try to get them to open up to you about what’s going on. Listen to their point of view and if it has something to do with you, try to be understanding and really hear what they have to say. If it’s something you can fix or work on together, make sure to do so moving forward. Taking time to listen to them shows you care for and respect them.
4. Work on Emotional Regulation
Start having conversations about emotions and appropriate ways to express those emotions. Some children have a harder time dealing with their emotions so it can be helpful to show them ways to calm down and manage their feelings. You can teach them that it’s okay to disagree with you, but that there are nicer, more respectful ways to communicate their opinion.
5. Have a Clear Set of Rules
Make sure you have rules that your child knows about and understands, and once you have a set of structured rules, be sure to stick to them. Let them know what they can and cannot say and what behaviour is acceptable. Make sure other parental figures are on board with the rules. This will help decrease behavioural issues.
6. Enforce Consequences
Disrespectful behaviour should not be ignored or overlooked. This can often encourage more backtalk. Communicate the consequences of talking back, which could be additional chores, an earlier curfew, or taking their phone away. When enforcing the consequence, make sure to highlight the link between it and the backtalk. Say something like “when you talk to me disrespectfully, you can’t have access to your phone for the rest of the night.” And don’t backdown. They’ll take you seriously if you follow through with the consequence.
If you’re having trouble with backtalk in your home, try these tips to navigate the situation and move forward with respectful conversations.
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