I found it shocking the first time my seemingly sweet, innocent child talked back to me. Their words surprised and stung me, and my immediate reaction was to want to fire right back at them (and at times I have). I’ve spent a lot of time reading and praying to know how to handle back talking. Each child and situation is different, and I’m constantly learning and growing myself. These are the different approaches I’ve taken with my children with varying results. With your child/children in mind read through and see which one(s) stand out for you.
1. Compassion: What is going on in your child’s life? What may be causing them stress? Any changes in the home? New school? Teenage hormones? Do you remember what it was like to be a teenager? Show compassion, understanding of what is happening in their life. Listen and strive to understand. Often the outburst had nothing to do with what is actually going on.
2. How do you talk? Have you ever been surprised by something a small child says and realize they got it from you? It doesn’t stop when they are little. They listen and watch you. How do you talk to them or other people? Do you talk down to them or make hurtful comments? They may just be mimicking you.
3. Time: How much time have you given your child lately? Are they crying out for your complete attention (put the phone away)? Do something fun together. My kids love alone time with mom or dad. If the root cause isn’t your attention, but something else this time together may clue you in.
4. Electronics: I have seen a direct link between the amount of time on electronics and contention in our home, so we set boundaries, time limits. Also, what are they watching or playing? It could be affecting them. Join them and see how it makes you feel. I have found some of my kids video games or shows disturbing and though I wasn’t popular around our house, getting rid of them was for the best and I’ve learned to pay more attention to what is coming into our home. We have a docking station for electronics at night to also protect them and at times we’ve taken electronics completely away and have been amazed at the calming effect–after the initial fit.
(Don’t forget to also watch the amount of time you are on electronics. They are watching you.)
5. Friends: How do their friends speak to you, their parents, each other? Sometimes your kids think it is normal or cool to talk back because others do. Take some time and explain how speaking like that has hurt you or may hurt others. Sometimes they really don’t realize they are hurting anyone. Also, don’t be afraid to ask the friends not to speak that way in your home.
6. Pick your battles: It is normal for a child to use some sarcasm as they are figuring out who they are and how they fit in. They are testing the boundaries. I don’t believe you need to correct them every second. Some times let it slip or talk about it at a calmer moment.
7. Don’t engage in the battle: Pause when a child back talks. It is so easy to blurt out the first thing that comes to mind; which further escalates things and damages the relationship. Just pause before you respond. When they are attacking it is a good idea to tell them to stop and you will talk when they are calmed down.
8. Apologize and Strive to Do Better: If you do react in the heat of the moment…apologize for not handling it better–no excuses–just a genuine apology. It’s hard to always respond the way your child needs, you’re human. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Sometimes it may be something you’ve done that has led to their back talking. It’s important that you can be the example and tell your child that you’re sorry. I’ve at times been surprised to find that something I said or did hurt them. I didn’t intend it to, but I recognize how they took it and feel and I explain what I meant and apologize. You are teaching them how to communicate effectively, and that it is okay to admit your mistakes, and apologize. Then do your best to do and be better.
9. Ask for help: If their behavior appears to be completely out of control you may be inspired to reach out for help. You can and will be guided to those who can help them. It may be a therapist, doctor, church member, neighbor, or family member. Remember “It takes a village to raise a child.”
These are ideas on how to work with your child, that have come to me as I have pondered and prayed on how to best help my children. Always remember, you are their parent and know what your child needs. You are the expert on your child, one of these ideas may jump out at you as something to try or a completely new idea may have come to mind. Act upon these. Love your child where they are.