Attitudes & Backtalk
Back talk, smarting off, and being fresh are disrespectful because they do not recognize the power structure of the family. The child is either treating parents as subordinates by giving orders or as peers by criticizing, using sarcasm, swearing, name calling, or not complying. Although it is important to consider children’s ideas, when parents do not “carry the weight in the family,” it is like sailing a boat with no ballast—the boat will capsize!
WHY CHILDREN TALK BACK
Understanding the following sources of disrespect can help parents take it less personally and free their minds to have a quick-witted response:
HOW TO RESPOND TO BACK TALK
Telling a child not to talk back or to be more respectful will inspire the opposite. Psychologists usually advise parents to be consistent. In the case of back talk, it is important for parents to use a variety of responses. Surprisingly, the gentlest responses often produce better results than intense ones. Consequences will be more powerful when they are not overused. The following suggest levels of responding to back talk:
Technically, back talk is an act of omission because children are failing to talk in a desirable manner. They can easily be motivated to communicate more effectively if you give them time to collect themselves and withhold key privileges until they can perform the task in number 9 above. Putting a child on restriction for back talk is like trying to kill a mosquito with a machete and does little to teach desirable expression.
THE SILENT TREATMENT
Some children prefer pouting, withdrawing, or “the silent treatment” to back talk. Simply require such children to tell you or write you a letter about what is bothering them before they can use the phone, eat snacks, or have other privileges. If you do this, you must be willing to feedback their feelings and sympathize with their viewpoint (although you may not change your position). If you attempt to dispute feelings, the approach will not work and the negative attitude will continue!
Reference: Several books elaborate on skills that improve communication with children: Between Parent and Child and Between Parent and Teenager by Haim Ginott (Avon 1969, 1971) and How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish (Avon, 1980).