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How to Deal With Back Talk

Updated on June 18, 2007

Sooner or later all parents have to deal with back talk. It's kids' way of asserting their personalities, expressing their wishes, and testing your limits. While it may be annoying and you certainly want to train your child not to be a rude person, you have to put back talk in perspective to deal with it.

Who Do You Think You’re Talking To?

We all start to sound like our parents at one point. In this day of constant media and entertainment, some kids are simply repeating snarky remarks they've heard on Sponge Bob without even realizing that it's not so funny to adults and not so appropriate for them to say. Let them know that some things are okay to say to their friends that they wouldn't want to say to an adult.

Keep back talk in perspective. Just because your child is a smart mouth with you doesn't necessarily mean she's going to become a rude adult. However, it's important to know your standards and keep them. If you let everything slide, your child won't know she'd done anything wrong. Then you will have failed.

Do You Talk That Way to Your Teacher?

Lot's of kids smart off to their parents in ways they never would with another adult. They know you. By the time your kid's in Kindergarten, she's got a Master's Degree in YOU. She knows where every button is and she'll push if it shifts the power or gets her what she wants. This is why sometimes, but only sometimes, it's appropriate to ignore the back talk. Pretend you didn't hear it and see if it goes away. For some children, the fact that they didn't get a rise out of you will be enough to switch tactics. As long as she's not mouthing off at school, you're probably in good shape.

Create Off-Limits Words

One way to minimize the damaging kind of back talk is to have very clear boundaries about hurtful words. Some examples of off-limits words might be stupid, hate, and shut-up. You can use whatever is most distasteful to you so that you never have to hear it in your own home from that precious creature of yours. (Of course, as the child gets older, these are the very words she'll use to really get you.)

Rational Response

This is where use your words grows up. If your child is sassing off, she has learned to use her words very well indeed. As the parent you now have the privilege of teaching her about the right and wrong of words and the ever-important tone of voice!

You may want to ask the child to think about the words she's using or to restate the remark.

Be the Boss

I'm a big fan of the hard line approach. Talk back and you suffer the consequences. Period. This may or may not work for you. And it may work sometimes and not others. The thing with kids is we have to stay creative to get through to them. The important thing is to hold true to your values and do your best to relay them in a way the child can comprehend.


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  • Woemwood profile image

    Woemwood 10 years ago from Melbourne Australia

    Well what is missing in todays society is self discipline, and respect for Authority. However most Parents either do not know what is meant by discipline or do not care about discipline,and that will go a lot further then just being disciplined at home. The other mental disease is disrespect for everything someone doesn't like, that includs the governement, the school, your work place, your home, and specially your parents, and finally children no that you can't smake them, and make them perform, and that you could finish up in court. So they will go ahead with whatever they decide whether their parent agree or disagree.This is the most stupid and unreasonable law ever introduced, in any society, as it take's away the rights of parents, to bring them up in a mental regulated way, to respect others and treat them as they would like to be respected and treated themselve's.

    Miss Lela I admire your courage to speak the truth.Talking back to your parent is disrespectful, or even rebellious, children should be instructed not I tell you so, children should sit down with both parent not just with one, then aske why they make certain rules, or certain restriction, that way it will not end up in an argument or disrespectful shouting match.