If conversations with your child turn into arguments and you suddenly find yourself in the unenviable position of being cross examined and caught in your words, you might realize that the child whom you raised to become a future lawyer is already practicing his skills on you. This miniature Perry Mason debates when he should obey, argues when compliance would take less than a minute, and present compelling evidence when you forbid something. In small doses this might be endearing, but on a day to day basis it is draining, frustrating and disrupts a family.
Learning how to nip arguing and back talking in the bud does not have to be difficult but it requires three components:
- A parental willingness to hear out the child completely.
- A willingness to reconsider a rule or decision that might prove to have been less than well thought out.
- A steely determination to consistently stick by your guns and when a well deserved “no” is issued, it does not change to a “yes,” no matter how long the child wheedles and whines.
Consider the many faces that arguing and back talking can take. Some are obvious while others are a bit more hidden.
The child will repeat the request time and again, sometimes at odd moments. He may catch you unawares or you may see it coming. No matter what the occasion he presents and the arguments that accompany the request do not bother repeating your answer. Say it only once and then simply refrain from saying anything else. You may opt to walk away or ignore him otherwise. At some point your child will catch on that endless repetition will not wear you down to complying with his wishes.
He is not happy with your decision and he makes sure you know it. He might mutter all the way through completing the task, but it will get done. Eventually, when he notices that no amount of complaining changes anything, he will quit. One caveat: if the child becomes rude or disrespectful in his complaints, it is time to bring down some consequences.
Dealing with an immediate lack of compliance does not have to turn into an argument. Instead, there are some ways of preempting such a problem before it even starts. Perhaps the easiest way is to set some ground rules. Kids love to talk things through and if you explain that every good debate needs rules, they will be happy to sit down with you and plot them. This is best done when you are not in the midst of an argument already.
Some of the rules to discuss are obvious:
- There will be no screaming, yelling, and name calling.
- Every person is allowed to finish their sentences.
- Voices must remain at normal levels.
- No sarcasm and little jabs.
- A parental end of discussion statement, such as “this topic is no longer open for discussion.”
Another possible way of diffusing an argument is by way of choices. When a child is offered choices, he is less likely to argue. Granted, there may be times when a child does not like either choice offered, but in such moments the parent must remain firm that there is no third option.
In select situations this may lead to an argument where the child – in spite of your best effort – talks back in a manner that is downright rude and highly disrespectful. At the root of this behavior is most likely an occasion or two when the child got away with this kind of behavior. Parents who consistently discourage back talking or deal with it as outlined above, most likely will not have to deal with disrespectful words too often.
If you do find yourself in the position of having a child that has added disrespectful back talking to his repertoire of communication styles within the family, it is a good idea to announce that, effective immediately, such behavior will no longer be put up with. Reveal a number of consequences that will be meted out in response to back talking. They should increase in seriousness. You may begin with simple losses of some privileges, such as video games for that day, the use of the phone for a day, and anything else that will remind the child that talking back is no longer profitable.
It is crucial for the child to be clear on the consequences and also what constitutes an offense. Of course, once everyone is on the same page, it is up to you to actually follow through on these rules you just laid down. Since the child will most likely want to test your resolve, there are going to be some little battles ahead. Here are three tips for dealing with them.
- Stop the conversation as soon as your child becomes disrespectful. Walk away from your child and do not allow yourself to get drawn into a battle of words. Once a bit of time has elapsed and you both have cooled down, mete out a previously agreed upon consequence.
- Fine your child. This should be done with children who are visual learners. Count out their allowance in quarters and tape each of the quarters to a board. Over the course of the week, remove one quarter for each disrespectful talking back episode. At the end of the week, your child’s allowance is determined by his actions. He may end up with a lot, a little, or nothing at all.
- If a particular phrase or method of communication is out of character for your child, recognize that you have a teaching opportunity. Explain why a certain phrase is disrespectful and why you will not permit him to use it.