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Talking Back: Unacceptable Child Behavior Needs To Be Stopped Now

Review Child's Environment and Self-Esteem First

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Talking back or "sass" is a common lament among parents, and can cause some rift within the family if the behavior is not controlled and redirected. What can parents and child care providers do to put the lid on this unacceptable behavior? Here are some tips.

  • Look at the child's situation and surroundings. What kind of talk occurs around her? How much sarcasm, fighting and sass is he exposed to? Make sure a child is not modeling behaviors he encounters regularly. If this is the case, changing the environment is the first place to start.


  • Analyze a kid's self-esteem and comfort. Does the youngster feel powerless or not listened to? Does he seem out of control? Is it possible that the back-talk occurs because the child has found that it is the most effective way to get listened to? Again, if this is the case, tackling these issues first may resolve the problem.
Techniques to tackle the problem of talking back include:

  • Establish behavior expectations and stick with them. Simply say: "Talking that way is not allowed." Remain firm and direct.


  • Teach the consequence that talking that way will NOT get a child what he wants. This important lesson must be understood by a back-talking child. Adults can simply say: "I am not going to talk with you or listen while you have this tone with me. Once you change how you talk with me, then I will be glad to listen."


  • Teach a child proper communication methods. Sometimes, a child really doesn't know how to properly ask for things or to communicate. In an appropriate setting and time (and not when a child has just challenged an adult with back-talk), calmly explain to a youngster how to properly communicate. Be sure that they understand, however, that simply asking respectfully still does not necessarily mean they will achieve the outcome they are requesting. Otherwise, parents/providers will be seeking advice on managing a spoiled brat.


  • As appropriate for their age and development, begin teaching a child how to handle disappointment. Explain ways a child can cope or even voice disappointment or displeasure without talking back to an adult.


  • Play act a scenario with a child and provide him with a chance to practice an appropriate response. Reinforce that inappropriate reactions/behaviors should always be followed by an apology and an attempt to again relay the communication in a non-"sass" tone.


  • Praise good behavior and appropriate actions/reactions. Realize that it is hard to handle life's disappointments, and responses often have to be learned.
Related Video
Teaching Kids to Listen

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