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4 Steps To Stop Kids From Talking Back

Tired of all the eye-rolling and ‘whatevers’? Here’s how you can deal with a child who talks back.

“It’s always a no from you! You ruined my life!”, exclaims an angry 7-year-old. Standing there expressionless, the mother of that boy was
beyond shocked to get that sort of response just because she didn’t allow him to go to the playground due to a slight drizzle. And, if it couldn’t get any worse, this situation took place in a friend’s home, where we gathered for a catch-up. Oh, the awkwardness…

Back in the day, it would’ve been considered a catastrophe to utter a word back to our parents or go against what they’ve instructed us to do. Today, however, is an entirely different story. In fact, some kids are more disrespectful than the ones from the past, and this is one of the main challenges parents face.

But why are they rude? Well, according to parents we spoke to, too much pampering and spoiling can cause kids to be disrespectful. The other reason is a common parenting mistake of closing one too many eyes to children’s bad behaviour.

“I remember the first time my girl answered me rudely; I knew I had to make a stand there and then to stop her. So, I used the same tone as she had used on me when she was asking me something. Although that nearly brought her to tears, it made her realise how hurtful it can be when you speak to someone in a harsh tone.”

Why Is My Child Being Disrespectful?
According to Dr Michele Borba, a renowned parenting expert, “Back talk is learned, and kids will keep using it when they know it works. So never give in to kids’ disrespectful behaviour.” What this means is that children learn how to respond by carefully monitoring and even imitating the people around them. Parents should then practise to be respectful to others, especially when the kids are around. “To be honest, I think my child picked up this rude behaviour after he accidentally saw me and my husband in an argument. Though we weren’t rude per se, our voices were quite loud. It was a little hard to explain to my boy why Daddy and I were talking loudly, because he isn’t old enough to understand the little arguments between spouses,” says Aini Ahmad, mother of three. 

Besides mimicking the behaviours of those around them, some of the other factors that make your child talk back include:

  • Being frustrated by limitations and wanting to test limits.
  • Noticing that being disrespectful gets a reaction – laughing, shouting – either way, it’s attention.
  • Feeling as if they are being treated unfairly or are not being listened to. This can particularly be the case with backchat or mumbled comments.
  • In some cases, it may even be due to grouchiness from being hungry or tired.

Stop The Back Talk
Although this bad behaviour is on the rise, the good news is that it is also one of the easiest things to solve. Dr Borba shares that immediate intervention is needed the second your child uses a sassy tone or word. She advises parents to use a calm and firm voice to let your child know that their action or saying was totally unacceptable. To approach the situation in a composed manner, try these examples. “That tone is disrespectful”, “You may not tell me to ‘shut up’”, or “Stop telling me that I don’t know anything; it is disrespectful. We’ll talk when you talk right.” Alternatively, Audrey Ricker, author of ‘Backtalk: 4 steps to Ending Rude Behaviour in Your Kids’, sheds light on her four-step approach to curb all that sass.

  1. Recognise What Is And Isn’t Back Talk
    Simply put, anything that your child says, which annoys you or makes you feel hurt or disrespected, is back talk (could be something they said, a tone of voice, or a gesture like eye-rolling). Some things, however, are actually legitimate concerns that the child is raising, and if they raise it in a respectful way,  it isn’t back talk.
  2. Choose an Appropriate and Logical Consequence for the Back Talk
    The key to this one is that the consequence has to be logical and related to the back talk. Some examples are ending a playdate, not allowing the child to do something they were expecting to be able to do, not driving them to an activity they were planning to go to, or removing them from the family’s activities for a while.
  3. Enact The Consequence Immediately
    You basically have to carry out the consequence right away in order to get your point across. It can’t happen later because the longer the wait, the more certain your child gets that talking back is perfectly fine for you.
  4. Disengage From The Back Talker And The Reaction You Are Sure To Get
    You will most definitely get an angry reaction once you tell your child what the consequence of the back talk is. Do not engage no matter how hard they try to argue and plead with you. No matter what, do not change your mind or take back your consequences. Be firm and stick to your decision.

How do you deal with a rude child? Share your views with us down below.