Ask The Child Therapist Episode 11: Raising Kids Who Don’t Talk Back
How Do I Raise Kids Who
Don’t Talk Back? The 3 Elements You Might be Missing.
If I had a penny for every time a parent asked this I would have, well – a lot of pennies! Who doesn’t want to know how to raise kids who don’t talk back? When kids talk back it can send us into a tailspin. Not only is it disrespectful, but it can make us feel like we are failing as a parent. And that is never a good thing, right?
So, what is the secret sauce to raising respectful, polite children? If you think it is just discipline that makes kids don’t talk back, you are missing the bigger picture.
#1. If you want to raise kids who don’t talk back, you shouldn’t either.
So many times kids in my therapy practice describe the interactions between them and their parents. They talk about shouting matches and name calling. They tell me things like, “I will respect her when she starts to respect me.” And you know what, they have a point. Why should we parent with a “do as I say, not as I do” philosophy?
Yes, children need to respect our rules, but we also need to respect our children. We teach respect by showing respect. When we belittle, demean and devalue our children we aren’t modeling respect.
Respect also goes beyond our interactions with our children. How do you talk to your partner? How does your partner talk to you? Children are little sponges. If you want to know how a family talks to each other, listen to their youngest child speak.
Little kids don’t know what words are appropriate and inappropriate. Developmentally they are supposed to be soaking up our linguistic expertise. You control what they are soaking up. If they hear everyone spewing anger, disrespect and attitude in your home, guess what they will be spewing back?
Respect begets respect.
#2. Teach your kids how to talk to you.
Don’t expect your children to know how to talk to you, especially if the issue of talking back has been going on for a while.
You will need to retrain their brain to use more appropriate words to communicate if you really want kids who don’t talk back. Repeat how they could have said it. Let them know that you don’t talk to them like that, so they shouldn’t talk to you or anyone else that way.
#3. Disrespect should always come with consequences.
Parents will vent to me that their children are so rude. That they wouldn’t talk to their worst enemy the way their children talk to them. Sometimes I get a front seat view of their interaction and do you know what I often see? I see a parent who does not correct the behavior. I see a parent who responds and even gives in to the demand the child is placing on them.
No matter what, back talk should never be tolerated. Do not shout out threats like “Wait until your father comes home.” Do not wait for your partner to stick up for you. Those behaviors undermine your parental authority and your ability to handle the situation yourself.
Tell your kids that you would never let anyone talk to them like that and you expect that they don’t talk to anyone else like that. This moves the conversation from a personal issue to a global issue.
This isn’t about you and them, this is about them and the world. If they talk to you like that, it is highly likely they might slip and talk to their friends that way, their future boss that way and definitely their spouse that way. It is your job to prevent that from happening.
If you are a new parent and are raising a toddler, you can usually get away with making your child “redo” how they talked to you. You can say something like, “Yes mom, I will go do it.” By constantly stating how they should talk, kids will start to emulate your communication style. It is important to never do what they say if they don’t say it politely. You can state how you want to be talked to by saying things such as, “Can I have some milk please” and do not get what they need or want until they ask in a polite way.
If you have an older child you will have your work cut out for you. If you are reading this article or watching this video, more than likely you have a mouthy child. This behavior didn’t develop overnight and it isn’t going to disappear overnight either.
Tell your child that you want a peaceful, respectful house. With that in mind, you are going to watch how you talk to them and you are going to require that they be respectful back. If back talking has been deeply ingrained, you might have to do some behavioral shaping to knock that bad habit out of your home.
I suggest using a behavioral plan like three strikes you are out. You can read about that approach here. The key is to remain calm when you give out the strikes and to not feed into their negativity. Unfortunately, that might be what your child is hoping you’ll do. There is no feeling more powerful than making your parent turn into an emotional wreck. Don’t fall into that trap!
With love, consistency and patience you can turn your child’s behavior around. The key comes down to these three things. Be respectful to your children, even when they are not respectful to you. Respect your spouse and others around you. Never allow your child to talk to you disrespectfully without some consequence or discussion. Most of all be patient. Change takes time.
Do you know parents who struggle with how to raise kids who don’t talk back? Share this article with them!
Other articles on parenting poor behavior:
How Can I Get My Kids to Listen? (This article talks about the 3 strikes)
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