Teenagers (13-18)

Back Talkers: 4 Kinds of Back Talkers


Knowing where to draw the boundaries for your children is hard enough, but when they constantly talk back and challenge your authority, even the best of moms can grow weary and frustrated.

When your child is back talking, you’ll do just about anything to get them to stop.  Pinpointing the type of back talk that your child most often engages in can help you diagnose the underlying problem as a parent and show your child how to communicate with respect.

1. The Impulsive Back Talker. This is the child who just says whatever he thinks without stopping to consider the consequences. This trait of impulsiveness may cause him problems in other relationships outside the home, as he may say things that hurt and alienate friends, cause classroom disruptions at school, and create problems all around. Ask your child to count to five and say things in his head first to consider how it will be received, and if it’s a good idea. Learning to take that brief pause may save him from saying things to you or others that he doesn’t really mean. Parents of children diagnosed with ADHD often struggle with this issue.

2. The On and On Back Talker. This is the child who just needs to have the “last word.” He or she doesn’t want to concede that the struggle for what they want is over, and continuing the debate forever is their way of keeping hope alive. In reality, continuing to argue their position after you’ve made a final decision is a challenge to your authority as a parent, and is, at the heart of it all—disobedience. Therefore, it must be treated as such. Lay the ground rules with your child in a moment where there’s no immediate conflict, and make it clear that once you’ve ruled that the discussion is over—it is over, and failure to recognize that will have consequences.

3. The Tired Back Talker. In the land of overscheduled children, this is a more common type of back talk. It stems from a child’s fatigue, which compromises their impulse control and emotional balance. Over-tired children often lose the ability to be rational or understanding about anything, and the result is a kid who will argue with a fencepost (often while crying). As a parent, you can do a lot to remedy this situation by making sure that your children get adequate sleep every night, and that their schedules aren’t so packed as to wear them down. Your best bet when you have a weepy, tired Back Talker on your hands is to recognize the situation for what it is and address it systemically, while at the same time reminding your child that this behavior—no matter how tired they are—is inappropriate and won’t be tolerated.

4. The Disrespectful Back Talker. This type of child isn’t simply asking for an explanation of your position. This child says rude, disrespectful things and openly challenges your authority. Under no circumstances does it benefit you or your child to let this go on without serious consequences. This type of disrespect completely undermines the parent/child relationship and is a pathway to other types of rebellion and defiance. It calls for swift consequences, every time.

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