When your child was a baby, you had to figure out what he wanted based on his crying. When was a toddler, you had to teach him not to whine. School-aged kids are usually fairly easy to communicate with, barring the episodes of intermittent regression to crying and whining, but as they get through elementary school and head into middle school, you’ll notice a whole new type of communication: It’s what our mothers called “backtalk,” and what we might refer to as “arguing.” If you have a child who you are fairly certain will become a lawyer based on his debate skills, read on for tips on dealing with a child who just loves to talk back:
Don’t argue back. The number one rule for arguments is that it takes at least two to argue. If you are not a willing participant and simply refuse to engage, then your child will have no choice but to stop arguing. Don’t feel like you need to get in the last word: As long as she’s doing what you have told her to do, what difference does it really make if she mutters a bit or even stomps her foot. Simply tell her, “I need for you to unload the dishwasher now,” and if she argues with, “But I had to do it yesterday!” then simply repeat the request: “Please unload the dishwasher,” and walk away. If you’re not there to argue, then any backtalk will fall on an empty room.
Nip disrespectful behavior in the bud. If giving your child the ability to have the last word turns into him being disrespectful, then you need to stop that right away. Let him know that you understand that he does not want to do his chores (or whatever the argument is about), but that you will not tolerate disrespectful language. If that doesn’t work, you will need to impose a consequence. Some parents find that it works out better to give the warning, and then let him know the consequence after the child is completely done with his disrespectful tirade. For example, if your child yells about how “stupid” you are while unloading the dishwasher, wait until he is completely done, then calmly let him know that he will not, in fact, be going to the movies with friends later as planned. This will let him know for the future that while he might enjoy venting to an empty room, there will be a price to pay later.
Talk to your child about it when there is no argument going on. It’s always best if parents and kids are on the same page, so it will be helpful to wait until the two of you are doing something together and both in good moods to bring up this topic. Simply let your child know that you would like her to stop arguing with you. Tell her that as the parent, you get to make the rules, and that it’s her job to follow them. She can try to debate or argue, but you are simply going to leave the room, and if it continues or crosses the line into blatant disrespect, there will be a consequence. It also might be helpful to tell her that she can ask for your reasons for all of your rules in one set period at the end of the day lasting no longer than 10 or 15 minutes, and at that point the discussion will be over. This will give her the opportunity to ask questions if she truly does not understand, while placing a limit on the amount of debating that takes place on any given day.
It can be hard to remember that, as parents, our job is to teach our kids how to function in the real world. Since arguing at length with your boss or a police officer who pulls you over is not likely to end well, it’s good to help them get used to the idea that they don’t always get to decide which rules to follow. It’s also good to keep an open mind; if, at one of your nightly recap sessions, your child brings up a good point in a respectful way, it’s worth it to consider his point of view and decide if the rule might be changed for the future.
Do you have any tips on stopping backtalk in its tracks?