Don't back talk back
What is back talk? Every parent probably has a slightly different definition. For some very strict parents, it may be anything other than a "Yes, ma'am," delivered with a sincere smile. For others, it's questioning a command, responding with a rude attitude. Rolling eyes, a contemptuous tone of voice, sassiness or bossiness all can trigger a reflex reaction in parents of "How dare you speak to me that way!"
In reading Nurture Shock, I learned that kids learn this type of relational aggression from watching adults interact, and from television programming where characters talk to each other unkindly.
Jane Nelsen notes that speaking rudely back only creates a "power struggle or revenge cycle." We as parents have the power to break the cycle.
When a child speaks rudely, it's important to keep our cool and model an alternative way of handling things.
Some suggestions from Ms. Nelsen:
1) Validate feelings. "Sounds like you are really angry."
2) Take responsibility for your part. "I realize I talked disrespectfully to you by sounding bossy or critical."
3) Let's take some time to calm down until we can be respectful.
I asked for other suggestions from my wise mama friends and here's a summary of their feedback:
- Provide an alternative script for how to kindly communicate their disagreement or question and say, "try again."
- Ashley Van Otterloo of Simple Gifts suggests to ask them if they meant to sound angry ... kids who are immature in their communication and testing out the power of words need our guidance and feedback.
- In the case when the negative language persists, Ashley follows up by saying "You're out of control of your mouth. I'm going to leave now, to help you keep from being hurtful/unkind."
- Dulce de Leche shares her personal experience as a back-talking child.
- Ask Moxie's summary of Chapter 7: The Science of Teen Rebellion from Nurture Shock covers a relevant point: kids who argue with their parents see it as good for the relationship and you may want to read her summary of Chapter 9: Plays Well With Others as well.