Back talk is your child’s way of testing limits and asserting independence from you as they grow. It can be frustrating at any time, and downright embarrassing in public. Your response is critical in not only coming to a reasonable resolution, but in fostering your child’s development by teaching them diplomacy and compromise.
Researchers at the University of Virginia recently published an article in the journal Child Development citing their discovery that back talkers end up more successful in life if their parents use the opportunity to demonstrate how to handle disagreement calmly and confidently. The learned confidence carried over socially with the child’s friends and they were 40% more likely to reject peer pressures such as drugs and alcohol. Kids who had irrational arguments with their parents and just backed down because they figured arguing with their parents was futile were more likely to cave in to peer pressures. The confidence gleaned from learning how to argue effectively then carries over into relationships with significant others and colleagues. In addition to confidence, the kids whose parents dealt with back talk reasonably also learned how to listen because their parents listened.
How should you deal with back talking in a productive way?
1. Set limits, preferably not at a moment when back talking is in play. Compliment their good behaviors but explain that back talking is an issue that cannot be tolerated because it is disrespectful and hurtful. Explain that they can still express their differing opinions and desires without lashing out. Set limits on behaviors so that they know what is expected of them and what to expect if those boundaries are breached. Stick to those limits, but foster independence within those known boundaries so that you are not just bossing them around all day.
2. Maintain calm when they do back talk. Assess yourself and make sure that you are not issuing unreasonable demands or being disrespectful to them. Warn them, and if it continues then they lose a privilege for the day such as a tv show, a video game, or going to a friend’s house. Ignore back talk over the consequence and treat it as the same incident. Praise them when they argue calmly and persuasively and acknowledge good points in their argument, and point out when they are yelling, whining, or insulting.
3. Reward good attitudes. Decide on a privilege at the beginning of the week, such as a later bedtime for the weekend or having a friend over. If they have avoided meltdowns that week, award them the privilege.
Expect that you will have disagreements and realize that the quality of the arguments makes a difference for both household peace and your child’s future.
Author Biography: This article was written by Briana Kelly, who regularly writes articles and guest blogs on the subject of childcare and parenting. She also writes on behalf of Giraffe Childcare, a child daycare provider based inDublin,Ireland.