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Mouth, sass, fresh, cheek or whatever we choose to call it at any given time, I think it is safe to say that we all think we recognize backtalk when we see it, or do we?
Mom just arrived at a playgroup with Child. She is working on printing out a nametag and placing it on Child. Child tells mom she isn't doing it right and she is, in fact, stupid.
Child informs Mom she will not eat her vegetables and asks Mom if she was ever forced to eat unpleasant food items when she was young.
Child refuses to get dressed and tells Mom he has decided he will not be going to school that day. He states that he sees nothing wrong in taking a day off since his other classmates are absent from time to time.
Which of the above scenarios would you define as backtalk? All three scenarios are true stories and Scenario 3 is actually Little Bro and I. Two days ago, he refused to get dressed for school. When he gave the example of his classmates, I told the little guy that there is truly nothing wrong with taking a day off if there is a legitimate reason for it. In this case, there wasn't since the real reason he wanted to be home was to be the one to receive a package he was expecting. After reassuring him that his package would not be opened in his absence, he agreed to get on with his morning.
Scenario 3 is thus an example of honest communication between a child and a parent and not backtalk. I got my hands on Audrey Ricker’s book Backtalk: 4 Steps to Ending Rude Behavior in Your Kids years ago and it's been quite a handy resource for readable and relatable tips on recognizing and handling backtalk in kids.
Backtalk should not be confused with honest communication that a child has with a parent for self-expression. In scenario 3, Little Bro was expressing to me his anxiety over the arrival of a package and we were able to resolve it by addressing his concerns.
Audrey Ricker in her book Backtalk: 4 Steps to Ending Rude Behavior in Your Kids highlights 4 steps to navigate backtalk in kids.
Step 1: Recognize
We need to recognize backtalk when it is deployed. Audrey Ricker points out that backtalk can be recognized by the tone and the attitude in which it is spoken and it should never be ignored.
Step 2: Choose Consequence
Audrey Ricker points out that the consequence for backtalk should be immediate and directly related to the backtalk occurrence. Also, the consequences for the backtalk should be calmly stated without anger. Unfortunately, the mom in Scenario 1 ignored her child's comment while the mom in Scenario 2 lost her temper. It is very possible to backtalk the backtalker but not beneficial. I have found that whenever I feel twinges of impatience with my children it is because I am experiencing parental stress which we should all manage with parental resources. Parental stress is real and can lead to parental burnout. I talk about this more here, in case you missed it.
Step 3: Enact consequence.
Here the parent calming enacts the consequence for the child’s backtalk. I would imagine the child in Scenario 1 could have been taken home as a direct consequence of calling her mom stupid. Any parent will tell you that enacting consequences for any bad behavior is hard but I usually encourage myself knowing it is a deterrent to worse behavior.
Step 4: Disengage
Here the parent disengages from the situation after the enactment of the consequence and until the rude behavior stops. It's all about not feeding the bad behavior with more attention and positive reinforcement when that bad behavior is reversed.
My copy of Backtalk: 4 Steps to Ending Rude Behavior in Your Kids is well worn because I am constantly checking to make sure I am communicating honestly and intentionally with my children while refusing to tolerate impertinent or rude behavior. I understand that raising industrious, confident and respectful young children is hard in this day and age. It goes without having to say that we all need all the strategic help we can get and this book is one such resource.
Do you or have you experienced backtalk in kids? How did you handle it? Let me know in the comments below. Until then,
Best Regards and talk to you soon!
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