Whether it’s a toddler’s defiant “No,” or a teenager screaming, “You can’t make me,” backtalk is enough to make any parent’s blood boil. What’s worse, it often seems our natural reaction to backtalk (“How dare you speak to me that way” or “You’ll do it because I said so, young lady!”) only makes the problem snowball.
No one wants to raise a bratty kid, but it seems parents everywhere are battling backtalk. In fact, backtalk is the number one behavioral issue sited by parents who contact me — filled with frustration and wondering where they’ve gone wrong.
The best way to stop back talk in its tracks is to allow our kids the positive personal power they need. By fostering independence within our limits, we can help them grow up, as well as limit the back talk, arguing, whining that no one enjoys. Here’s how:
1. Give kids some power
Find opportunities for your kids to assume some control of their own world, whether that means picking their own outfit for the day (for a toddler) or planning an activity for a family vacation (for a teenager). The more positive power you give them, the less they’ll try to get it in negative ways – like talking back.
2. Don’t play a role
Recognize that parents may unknowingly contribute to the power struggles that produce back talk by bossing kids around too frequently. After all, would you be able to hold your tongue if you were told what to do all day? Limit the ordering, directing and correcting you do by finding alternate ways to get cooperation, and you may find that back talk is greatly reduced.
3. Pay attention!
Your kids have an attention basket that needs to get filled every day—they need your undivided attention, and will get it one way or another! Spend 10 minutes twice a day getting into each child’s world with no interruptions (let your phone go to voice mail), and you’ll see get a lot more cooperation in the future.
4. Refer to the rules
Set very clear rules for your house, and clearly communicate the related consequences for any child who chooses to test them. You don’t have to be overly harsh or strict, you simply need to stick with the limits you put in place.
5. Keep your cool
Your kids may be talking back simply to get a rise out of you—so don’t give them the satisfaction! Simply say, “I feel hurt by the way you’re talking to me. When I hear that tone of voice, I’m going to walk away. We can talk again when you can speak respectfully to me.” Next time it happens, there’s no need for even a warning—simply leave the room. You’re sending the message that you refuse to participate in a power struggle. And when there’s no one to fight with, there’s no fight!
By following these 5 steps, you’ll be able to greatly reduce the amount of backtalk you hear from your kids. And isn’t that music to your ears?
Amy McCready is the Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and the author of If I Have to Tell You One More Time…The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids To Listen Without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling. For easy to implement strategies for happier families and well-behaved kids, follow Positive Parenting Solutions on Facebook.
“Pay It Forward” to a Military Family.
Amy McCready is partnering with Blue Star Families in an initiative called “Pay it Forward Parenting.” For every book purchased, McCready and Positive Parenting Solutions will donate an online parenting training course to a deserving military family. For more information on this charity initiative, visit PayItForwardParenting.com.