Taken Aback by Your Child Talking Back?

It sounds just as bad, if not worse, when you do it.

Like many habits, good or bad, talking back can start at an early age. You may be taken aback by what you hear come out of children’s mouths, even as early as their toddler years. Like everyone else, very young children are exposed to negative, disrespectful speak from media, peers, and a plethora of other factors in everyday life. There’s no way to entirely prevent such exposure, but the very thought of your child talking back to you, or even worse to someone else, can feel mortifying. We’ve all caught wind of that bratty teenager speaking horribly to a parent in public, and of course we think to ourselves, “I hope that is never me.”

The truth of the matter is that it probably will be at some point. As a parent, when you think about it, even as adults, we catch ourselves saying stuff we wish we wouldn’t have in the heat of the moment, and it’s pretty much the same feelings causing our kids to talk back too (frustration, anger, discouragement, etc.). That’s a part of life, and we do learn as we continue to grow, no matter what age. Hearing a small, cute child say nasty things actually shines a light on such behavior, and presents the perfect teachable moment for the Golden Rule.

It’s kind of like that popular anti-smoking poster that dates back to the 1970s. Various animals, including a dog, duck, deer, monkey, and pig were shown with lit cigarettes hanging out of their mouths. The slogan simply stated, “It looks just as stupid when you do it.” And the truth of the matter is, when you talk back yourself, especially while in the presence of an observant child, you do look, and sound, just as stupid when you do it.

After all, we serve as the greatest examples in our children’s lives, and if we’re talking back to a spouse, friend, or stranger, we are modeling what appears to be acceptable behavior. It’s not.

From childhood through adulthood, a mean or aggressive response never seems to get us anywhere, as we tend to learn time and time again. Whether it’s on the personal basis with our own parents or siblings – or especially on a more professional level with a customer service rep (for how long were you on hold?) or co-worker, our kids will think that lashing out is a way to deal with frustration when they’re faced with similar situations involving a teacher, classmate, coach, or most of all – you.

While nobody’s perfect and we’re all going to have our disgruntled slip-ups at times, the best way you can prevent yourself from being “that parent” having a son or daughter talk back to you while grocery shopping is simply by not acting that way yourself. Easier said than done for sure, but well worth the effort for all involved. While toddlers will naturally struggle in dealing with new emotions, your instruction will be much more effective when you not only talk the talk (not back of course!), but also walk the walk.

Many parents have said time and time again that raising a child makes things new, breathing fresh air into life and enabling you to see things in different ways. This goes not only for the positives, but also for the life lessons, and in this case, how we react to things and choose our words. It’s easy to cringe upon hearing a second grader snap at a grandmother, but it serves as a reminder that we should bite our own tongues when wanting to do the same to that person who just happens to also be our mom.

It’s fitting that this insight into your child’s reactions can actually enhance the ways in which you deal with your own. And if you ever need some reinforcement, there will surely be some child around sassing back at an undeserving recipient. Or, you can always just flash back to that imagery of a duck smoking, because after all, talking back really does look and sound just as stupid when you do it.



About Susie Almaneih

Susie Almaneih spent several years during her young adulthood teaching children dance at her church group, as well as other cultural-based activities. Susie now spends as much time as she can giving back to the families in her community. Over the years, this love for community has evolved into a deeper love for delivering positive and creative content and awareness to families of all ages.

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