Teach polite communication to kids and put an end to backtalk

Teach polite communication to kids and put an end to backtalk

The first time a child talks back to a parent, it is usually just honest emotion being expressed, such as, “No, I don’t like this.” The problem is not with a child’s opinion--which he or she is entitled to--it is the way in which the opinion is voiced. If parents do not immediately correct the way a child communicates, this pattern will continue and become worse over time because children assume this is an acceptable way to express one’s feelings.


Do define and identify the behavior

When your child talks back to you, you should immediately call attention to it. Look your child in the eye and make a serious, firm comment, such as, “That is backtalk and not a proper way to tell me what you think.” Since your goal is to teach good manners, use your own good manners when requesting them to do something different, such as, “And please don’t talk to mommy that way.”

Do teach polite communication

Your children are talking back to you because they disagrees with you. While disagreement is unavoidable since there is no way your children will always agree with you, the disagreement is not the actual problem. Rather, your children’s manner of dealing with it is the problem. Teach your children how to politely and respectfully voice their opinion. Teach them how to communicate politely by providing them with the exact words you find acceptable. For example, “What I want to hear you say is, ‘Mommy, can I please play a little longer?’ When you say it in that way, you are using your good manners.”

Do watch out for bad influences

Keep your eye on your child’s friends and older siblings. Pay attention to television programs that are on when your child is in the room. Children imitate other people, which is how they learn. What goes in children’s ears, often comes out of their mouths.

Do be consistent with your expectations

Backtalk, sassing, being mouthy, arguing, impertinence, or cheekiness--whatever you label it--is a common issue that comes up from time to time during childhood. It is not something you will solve once and be done with forever. However, it can be curbed with calm guidance and consistency. Be sure that your child understands exactly what you mean by backtalk, and what words and expressions you find acceptable. The key is to be unswerving in your dedication to address every single episode of backtalk.


Do not empower the behavior

Whenever your child talks back, do not let it turn into a two-way argument between equals. The issue is not the subject that caused the backtalk. It is the backtalk, itself, that needs to be addressed.

Do not ignore it

You must respond to backtalk. If you selectively ignore the behavior, depending on how it happens, when it happens or how busy you are at that moment, you can definitely count on having to deal with more and more sass over time.

Do not shout, slap or erupt with angry emotion

A child who expresses displeasure with a biting, sarcastic remark can bring out the worst in parents, especially if you feel shockingly disrespected and unloved. Responding with knee-jerk anger may startle your child into silence, but will not solve the problem.

Do not take it personally

This behavior is not about you. It is about your children figuring out their place in the world. It is about children learning to express their independence, exploring their feelings and learning how to be mature enough to communicate their desires in ways that are respectful to others.

Jumping cartoon

Backtalk is a rite of passage. Almost all children try it on for size, so it is actually “normal” childhood behavior and communication. However, how parents respond to backtalk will determine whether it is a rare occurrence--or an everyday frustration. Remember to stay calm and consistent. Be a good teacher to your kids and this stage will pass.

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Elizabeth Pantleyauthor of The No-Cry Solution series of books for parents

Parenting educator Elizabeth Pantley is the author of twelve popular parenting books, available in twenty-six languages, including the best-selling No-Cry Solution series: The No-Cry Discipline Solution The No-Cry Sleep Solution The No-Cry ...

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