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Handling a child who talks back at you

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PHOTO CREDIT: Parents.com


Ever felt so embarassed and heartbroken when your child snaps back at you in a really disrespectful tone that leaves you almost speechless? Or have you raised your voice on your child maybe in anger trying to give out correction only to get a raised voice in return. Every parent hates this part of growing up in their kids. No one wants to have a rather disrespectful kid who doesn’t acknowledge their parents and listen completely while they dish out vital advise.

As a parent, sometimes it seems like your day is filled with an endless stream of talk back from your kids – you hear it when you ask them to do chores, when you tell them it’s time to stop watching TV, and when you lay down rules they don’t like. It’s one of the most frustrating and exhausting things that we deal with when we raise our kids.

While this can be a part of growing up for kids and a way of helping them show the different sides they are made of, it is important for parents to understand why they shouldn’t take it completely to heart when their kids talk back at them. Most kids go through phases of trying out rude behaviour toward their parents. And all humans sometimes let a momentary irritation get the better of them, so they snap at others.Kids talk back for a variety of reasons. They may be testing their own power to see how far they can take it. They may feel disrespected by parents who overprotect or “boss” them around. Or, they may live in a home in which respectful communication isn’t a priority.

In the majority of cases, however, talking back is the child’s way of exerting his power and saying “you’re not the boss of me.” We are all hard-wired with a need for positive power – the ability to have some control over our lives. When we over-protect, over-demand, order, correct and direct, we stand in the way of our children achieving independence and personal power.

The only way our kids know how to respond is to fight back. It’s a basic fight or flight response – they can’t easily flee, so they fight back with talk back, negotiating, arguing, stomping away, eye rolling, etc.When children act out, we naturally move straight to emotion- whether it’s embarrassment, anger, or hurt and disappointment. If you respond with emotion to every sour word that comes out of your child’s mouth, you’re only showing your kid just how to get a rise out of you and get some attention, albeit negative attention. Before you respond to the bad words, remove your personal feelings from the situation. Avoid escalating the situation, take a deep breath, and show true control by controlling yourself first. Then there’s no power struggle to be had.

Here are strategies to keep in mind:
. Monitor your own language and model respect as you interact with your child, even when they sass you. In general, if you find yourself criticising or yelling, bite your tongue. Don’t be afraid to set limits, but wait until you can speak calmly and respectfully.
. Don’t take it personally. Remind yourself that your child is still learning self-control and right now they have a problem, which is causing them to lose patience. Acknowledge the problem they are having (and if appropriate offer to help), even as you set a limit about their tone. Kids think twice about hurting the feelings of parents they feel supported by. In general, strengthen your relationship with your child by looking for every opportunity to positively connect. Be sure you spend at least 15 minutes alone with each child every day, giving them your focused, positive attention.
. When your child speaks hurtfully to you, calmly confront their hurtful words or tone and set a clear expectation for respectful communication.
Photo credit: Parents.com


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