Are kids who talk back rebels or are they simply speaking their mind? Are they rude or simply assertive? Will kids who talk back grow up to be bullies or confident executives? Talking back – do we encourage it or nip it in the bud?
It’s always difficult to determine if a child talking back is doing it out of contempt or simply wanting to assert his opinion. But it’s important to allow children to speak up because this is how they learn to communicate effectively. What do parents need to do when their kids talk back?
1. Understand where your kid is coming from. Most of the time, talking back is the way a child expresses his frustration or hurt from not being understood. Sometimes it is his way of showing his anger or disagreement. When you are able to determine the true reason for the way he speaks to you, it is easier to help him reign in the negative feelings. Kids need help sorting out their thoughts so that they can understand what they really want to say.
2. Listening attentively and lovingly is important. Children tend to retaliate with strong words and a harsh tone when they feel they are not being listened to. Peya, a mom of two boys, admits to the struggle of listening attentively to her kids when she is exhausted from work. She says, “I always have to remind myself to listen and it is very difficult when I am in a cranky mood. My kids usually raise their tone to make themselves heard. When they feel I don’t pay attention, they get angry. ” By truly listening, you may find that the remark may simply be an explanation that you didn’t hear because you were too focused on getting angry.
There’s a popular kids quote that says, “Parents call it talking back. We call it explaining.” Kids need to know that what they say is important to you. Listen without interruption and judgment. Show interest in what they have to say. Sometimes you may have to put yourself in their shoes to truly understand. Kids, no matter how young, are entitled to their own opinion. You want them to grow up with their own unique views and outlook, to become people with confidence and self-esteem.
3. Help your child communicate the right way. Younger children are not yet equipped with the skills and knowledge of finding the best way to express one’s thoughts and feelings. They speak based on their emotions, not caring about the effect of their words and tone. Ask your child how she would feel if someone talked to her in that same rude way so she is able to understand and be aware that what she did was disrespectful.
Agnes, a mother of two, helps her daughter recognize that what she did was wrong. “When she realizes it, she apologizes,” she shares, “I then teach her to be mindful of how she says what she thinks. The problem is not that she talks back, but when the tone used is rude and disrespectful.” Parents need to help kids find a better way of expressing the same thoughts and feelings, but in a more positive and calm manner.
4. Learn how to pause. When talking back turns into tantrums and arguments, it’s time to hit the pause button. Take a time out and reconvene when everyone is calm. Set a “speaking time” so that each one has his turn to speak without interruption. When things heat up and no one is willing to give in, taking a break is always a good idea. After each one is able to get some breathing space and a peaceful pause, a more meaningful conversation can take place.
5. Talk to your kids and explain. Lorelei, a mother of three, shares that her kids talk back when they disagree with her rules, especially on curfew or homework, or when she makes requests that her kids don’t want to be bothered with, such as answering the phone or doing chores. As they grow older, they assert their independence more. It’s not anymore a matter of wanting attention; it’s a matter of wanting autonomy. When you talk to your kids, you make them understand the reason for the rules and the requests you make. You want them to develop an analytical mind, to know and understand what is right and wrong, and to follow because they understand, even if they don’t necessarily agree. You don’t want them to simply blindly follow whatever you say.
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After an honest and open discussion, you may suddenly realize that your children have valid points and your original rules and requests may need to be adjusted. Remember, kids can also teach us something. Parents are not perfect!
6. Teach by example. Explanations can only do so much. It’s important to show your children how you respect others so they can emulate it. Make sure your words are consistent with your actions. It won’t do them good to preach about respect when they see you shouting at your helpers, speaking rudely to sales ladies or bad-mouthing people at work.
Allow your kids to have their own voice, but guide them in finding the best way to speak and share their opinions. Help them grow to be assertive and confident instead of aggressive and arrogant. Teach them also to respect others, not only through their tone, but also, through valuing other people’s thoughts and feelings, even if they differ from their own. This helps them acknowledge that each person is unique and is also a first step towards embracing diversity and respect.