Kids and Back-Talking: Why It Happens and How to Handle It

Defiantchild

Control. It’s human to desire it, and that is true for our children as well. When they feel they are not in control, they are going to try and gain it, and back-talking is the quickest way for them to try to do that.

Parent: “Adam, it’s time for dinner. Turn the TV off and wash up please.”
Child: “But, my show’s not over yet. I will come when it’s over.”
Parent: “No, I said it’s time for dinner. (Turns off TV) Now, go wash your hands, please!”
Child: “WHAT? Mom!!! I haven’t seen this one. There are only 5 more minutes! Mooooooom!”

Do I have to continue? You get the gist right? I’m guessing you’ve seen this play out a few times. I know I have.

Once the commitment has been outlined and understood and your child begins to protest, do not engage in a back-and-forth argument.

Jim Faye, author of Parenting with Love and Logic, suggests that the best way to avoid this back and forth and drain of time and energy is to not engage in the struggle for power. He suggests to, instead, anticipate the power struggle, before it happens, and help the child feel in control (even though you are setting the terms).

Once you’ve helped your children gain ownership and control and they still decide to misbehave, then comes the greatest teaching moments. So, let’s look at this situation again. This time, anticipating Adam’s reaction and looking for him to make a commitment (and, if we’re lucky, he won’t keep it and we’ll get that teachable moment!).

(10 minutes before dinner is ready)

Parent: “Adam, dinner is going to be ready in 10 minutes. I’d like to set the kitchen timer and, when you hear it go off, would you wash-up and come in for dinner please? Does that seem reasonable?”
Child: “Yeah, sure mom. I can do that.”
Parent: “Thanks Adam!”

MORE:  Changing a Child’s ‘Attitude’ }

(Timer goes off, and Adam doesn’t budge. Mom walks into the room, head down maintained and with a soft, empathetic tone of voice.)

Parent: “Oh no… I’m just so sad for you Adam.”
Child: “What? Why are you sad for me?”
Parent: “You made a commitment to be washed up for dinner when the timer went off. That didn’t happen, did it?”
Child: “Oh, no, I guess I forgot.”
Parent (still very empathetic): “Oh, yeah… that’s really too bad. I was really hoping I could trust you to keep your word. I think now you’re going to have to eat a cold dinner. It’s been sitting there a while. You think you’re ready to wash up now?”
Child: “Yeah, sorry mom.”

In this example, instead of an angry Adam, you have a generally apologetic and willing Adam, who knew ahead of time what the requirements were. It was much easier to persuade him to leave his show early. In fact, in this case, he doesn't even protest the TV being turned off. Instead, he’s more interested in why his mother is behaving a little strangely.

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Kids and Back-Talking: Why It Happens and How to Handle It

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7 comments

  1. Miranda says:

    Some of these seem very simple but I can say firsthand that some of these scenarios are something you’d see in a movie, not something that will actually work in real life. I’ve tried many approaches to my five year old son. He use to be a very loving, caring little boy. Since he started seeing his biological father this last year he has become violent and angry. He yells at me and hits himself constantly. His father has a temper too but I don’t know if its from seeing the way his father behaves or the many different, and negative changes he has experienced upon seeing his Dad. His Dad constantly talks badly about my fiancé and me:( So that adds to my son’s lack of respect and love. No amount of punishment especially using words helps. The best we have found is he listens better to my fiancé and my fiancé puts him in time out when he is naughty but when it is just my son and I there’s no respect.

  2. LIZ says:

    i hope this ever happens to me, this is so hard to control

  3. doreena says:

    My two older boys are 8 & (soon to be) 10 yr old. My husband and I almost always get back talk from my 8 yr old. We both expect it and knows it’s coming when telling him to do something; however, my husband still deals with it by enforcing his power rather then trying to get our son to come about it in a more calmer, less argumentative way. I think of it as tricking our boys into doing what we want them to do without the hassle. My husband thinks that we shouldn’t have to do that. He’s a stubborn man, but he’s coming around and both our boys are getting better at listening. Preparing yourself for habits like taking back and thinking of ways to go about it makes each time much less stressful and saves more time then you think. Also, it teaches out kids to be more responsible and think about the choices they make. Good article. Going to make my husband read it. -Doreena

  4. heather says:

    Good points in article but it is always harder to actually do in the moment

  5. Samantha says:

    I am glad I read this. Good article.

  6. Amalia says:

    It is better for a parent to tell their kid in a nice way to do what they are suppose to do, and by telling them they are doing wrong they can then realize that they have to do as they are told and whatever they are expecting might not be what they are hoping for. This is a great lesson for all children not just toddlers. I might use this technique is my little one doesnt do what hes suppose to do

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