Navigating Backtalk in Kids

Some of the links in this article are Amazon affiliate links.

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?

Scenario 1

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.

Scenario 2

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.

Scenario 3

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.


She mentions that backtalk causes us to feel hurt, embarrassed, helpless and annoyed because it is designed to stop us in our tracks.


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!



Amazon affiliate links mean if you make a purchase through a link in this post, I will earn an affiliate income or commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you for your support.

About Bunmi

Bunmi is the creator of the EthnicMotherhood blog. She is a motivational blogger and a Masters-prepared Registered Nurse. She is also married with three children and lives in the Midwestern part of the United States with her family.

22 thoughts on “Navigating Backtalk in Kids

  1. This is so helpful! I am dealing with backtalk from my almost 5 year old from time to time and I’m going to keep these in mind. I definitely make sure I acknowledge it right away, but it’s not always easy to keep calm, depending on the circumstances.

    1. Stephanie, you are absolutely correct! It is hard for me too but I find that it gets easier when have a strategy in place beforehand. That’s why I find the 4 Steps book so helpful ?

  2. This post is so needed! I’m having an interesting time with my three-year-old daughter being sassy. Sometimes I do ignore her but I don’t want her to think this behavior is okay. Still working on the balance of this-thanks.

    1. Thank you Shelly, I know what you mean! When it’s been a particularly stressful day, I sometimes feel I should pick my battles and not react to everything….thats when I know Inneed some selfcare to reboot and get back on track ?

  3. This is so helpful. Though my 7 year old doesn’t do back talk, but now a days, he is resorting to this method, as he is thinking that its style after watching his peers. So now am able to control it with your tips

    1. Suhasini thanks for your reply! You touched on a very important point can get influenced by peers or even media. Steps to help with this is another blogpost all together haha

  4. Great explanation of backtalk. A lot of times, kids are just exploring their own power and aren’t necessarily talking back. Recognizing it is the first step!

    1. You are so right Dawn! Back talk should be recognized, acknowledged and addressed. When it is not backtalk we have to be careful to explore their self expression and not crush their precious spirits…..thanks for your comment

  5. This is a great article with helpful information. It’s such a natural reaction to meet their backtalk with attitude of our own but we aren’t actually helping them any by doing so because these are the situations in which they have to learn proper communication and conflict resolution. Thanks for sharing!

  6. great post ! children are honest but there’s a fine line, if they break it they can become really disrespectful! that’s a very important task for the mom to know how to deal with such a scenario ! thanks so much for sharing !

  7. Thank you for sharing these ideas! Back talk isn’t super common in my house but let’s face it. I do have kids so it’s bound to happen sometimes. Always great to add tools to my toolbox 🙂

    1. Talisha, the struggle is so real! I feel you on every level sistah! This mothering thing is tough! But we are soldiers, striving onwards, arming ourselves with resources, selfcare, reboot and repeat ?

Leave a Reply to Bunmi Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

error: Content is protected !!


Receive newsletters and new blog posts delivered directly to your email box

Sweet Success! You will never miss out on a new blog post you have successfully subscribed to our newsletter

Oh no! There was an error while trying to send your request. Please try again.

will use the information you provide on this form to be in touch with you and to provide updates and marketing.