How To Deal With A Child Who Answers Back

How to Handle Kids Who Talk Back – Effective Tips for Parents

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Dr. Rashmi Prakash (Psychologist/Psychotherapist)
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If you have children, you are most likely to deal with disciplinary problems like backtalk. Backtalk can begin at any age, soon after the child has learnt the word ‘No’. It is part of a child’s normal growth and development process. However, back talking can lead to more behavioural problems in the future if it is not handled correctly by the parents. Therefore, it is important for parents to set boundaries and teach children to express themselves positively and respectfully. This article gives you practical tips on how to handle children who talk back.

Video: Effective Tips to Handle Kids Who Talk Back

What Does Back Talking Mean?

Back talking means impudent or rude remarks and behaviour from a child towards the parents or others in authority. Children often feel helpless and frustrated when adults don’t agree with them. Hence, they protest this by talking back or making rude gestures like rolling their eyes or smacking their lips to express their unhappiness with your decision.

Backtalk can come in various forms. Some children feel compelled to argue, in order to have the last word. Others keep repeating their request and explaining the reason for their request multiple times, even after you have said ‘no’. Some children may make rude gestures. This kind of insolent behaviour can lead to severe disciplinary issues if left unchecked. Hence, parents should take steps to address back talking in a firm but non-threatening way.

Why Do Children Talk Back?

Children talk back for a variety of reasons. The most common reason is that they want to assert their independence, and do not like to hear a ‘no’. Children also like to test their boundaries, and will push the limits to see how far you will let them go.

Another reason for back talking is learned behaviour. Children pick up tones from various sources. It could be from observing their peers, watching television, or even observing the behaviour of parents or extended family members. Some children imitate behaviours that they have seen without understanding that it is disrespectful. Another reason for children to talk back could be that they are irritable because they are tired, sleepy, or hungry. Children may also lash out at their parents by talking back.

How to Stop Your Child from Talking Back

Parents should deal with back talking by children calmly and rationally. They should explain to the child unacceptable ways of communicating, and how to instead express himself in a constructive manner. Following are a few tips on how to discipline a child who talks back:

1. Keep Calm and Do Not Get into an Argument

When a child speaks back, your automatic response may be to reply in anger with a raised voice. However, this only escalates the situation and leads to an argument or shouting competition. When dealing with a child answering back, stay calm, and do not get into an argument. A firm ‘no’ will get your point across. You need not explain the rationality of your decision to your child. You simply have to make him follow the rules.

2. Find the Root Cause

A child talking back to parents could be due to several reasons. Before responding, try to determine the reason for your child’s rude behaviour. It could be that the child is just grouchy from hunger or fatigue. It could also be that the child is imitating something he has seen on TV, and does not realise it is rude. If you determine the root cause, you can address it effectively.

3. Make a Note of When Back Talk Usually Happens

Keep track of when back talking usually occurs. If your child talks back after a long, tiring day at school or after not having had enough sleep, you can take measures to eliminate such triggers.

Mother listening attentively to her child

4. Set a Good Example

Children learn by observing their parents. Hence, it is important that you set a good example for them. If they see you making a snide remark or a disrespectful tone, they are likely to imitate you. If you wonder what to do when kids talk back, the answer is to explain to them about unacceptable behaviour. Sit with them and explain why it is important to communicate with others in a respectful manner, and teach them to avoid discourteous ways of communicating.

5. Listen Attentively to Your Child

Make your child understand that you will give him your complete attention and listen to him if he communicates in a positive and respectful way. This will show your child that you value his opinion and that you are listening attentively. It will also show him that communicating calmly and constructively gets better results than talking back.

6. Keep an Eye on What Your Child Watches on TV

Children often pick up negative behaviours from TV shows and cartoons that they watch. Keep a tab on what kind of shows they are watching. Several shows portray children talking back to their parents and making sarcastic remarks for comic relief. Children are very impressionable, and they may imitate such behaviour. Encourage your child to watch shows that emphasise effective communication and respectful behaviour.

Mother and child watching TV

7. Keep in Mind That This Is Part of Growing Up

Although listening to your child talk back can be frustrating, keep in mind that this is a natural part of growing up. As children grow, they feel the need to assert their independence over what they wear or eat, and when they play or sleep. Before you respond in anger, remind yourself that the back talk is not a personal attack on you, but just a way of asserting independence.

8. Get Professional Help

If your child continues to talk back and behave unacceptably despite your best efforts, it is best to seek professional help. If your child is constantly talking back, displaying aggression or violence, refusing to follow the rules, and continuously throwing tantrums, then it is advised that you seek professional help. Ask your paediatrician to recommend a good child counsellor or behavioural expert. The counsellor will work with you and your child to determine the root cause of such conduct, and suggest ways to improve your child’s behaviour.

Back talking in children is a normal part of growing up. Children do not like to be told ‘no’, and they respond to this by talking back and making rude gestures. If the cheeky behaviour is not dealt with appropriately, it could lead to serious behavioural issues in the future. Parents should try to understand the underlying reason behind the child’s disrespectful behaviour, and try to address that in a composed and non-aggressive manner.

Also Read: What Is Helicopter Parenting & Its Effects

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