You have just told your five year old to clean up a mess and you get a rude reply. This is not the first time either. You have noticed that they seem more inclined to talk back than ever lately. This is annoying to say the least and you are reasonably upset.
But before you lash back at them, maybe it is time to think of solving the issue rather than react to the moment. For this it is vital to understand why they talk back in the first place.
- Attention Seeking: Talking back, as any other behavioural issue, is about getting your attention. Try to see why your child has this new found need. Is it a transition period for them at school? Is there a new baby in the family? Do they feel neglected? Are they being bullied at school? Try to do some sleuthing and find out what may be the root cause of this attention seeking. Once you have a clue talk to them and try to resolve it. Help them express their difficult emotions in an acceptable way.
- Set Boundaries: Your child might just be imitating a funny character they saw on television or a friend. Let them know what acceptable behaviour is and what is not. They might be merely unaware that they are being rude.
- Respond, do not react: Do not engage in a verbal battle with them. If your child talks back at a public place it can be embarrassing. Do not react at that instant. Instead wait for a quiet spot to tell them that the behaviour was not right. This way your child knows that you are still in control of the situation.
- Deaf Ear: if they continue to behave the same way turn a deaf ear. Do not negotiate, compromise or even discuss their opinion with them. Let them know that there will be consequences to the behaviour. Carry through with them if the behaviour does not stop. Show them that you respect yourself too much to be treated this way.
- Praise politeness: Any display of good behaviour should be singled out and praise. This way your child realizes that you notice and appreciate good things. This will make them feel good, and they will talk back less often.
- Model Expectations: If your child sees you as a person who is in control of their emotions they will learn from it. If you are rude to another adult in front of them, they often consider it an acceptable behaviour.
- Creative outlets: Often anger caused by circumstances they cannot control, is what drives a unacceptable behaviour. Engage your child in creative pursuits like drawing, singing to calm them and release their anger.
- Transition Time: If your child is engaged in an activity they enjoy they are likely to be resistant and talk back when they are abruptly asked to disengage from it. It is better to give them an advance notice of ten minutes so that they have the time to get used to the idea.
It is important to consider the context in which children talk back, identify patterns and then consider the possible solutions. It is up to you to avoid power struggles and help them change their negative behaviour.