Do you know that back-chatting is your child’s way to make a last attempt to connect with you?

Has your cute and cuddly child suddenly turned into an argumentative opinionated kid with a huge attitude. Are you finding yourself saying yes to things just to prevent the battle? Back chatting (also called back talk) and arguing is universal – all children do it at some point in their lives. And just like you all parents hate it! Arguing back or back chatting is a normal part of your child’s development. It is a way for them to assert their growing independence. The trick is to respond in such a way that your child realises, it isn’t going to help them get what they want. Back-talk is addictive, a child who talks rudely to a parent once or twice and gets away with it will continue the behaviour, and it will progressively get worse. Most children will attempt back-talk at some point. When a parent responds calmly and with authority, the behaviour will stop.

It takes two to argue. Children cannot “argue” by themselves. That’s called “mumbling.” If you haven’t argued about doing homework, you have surely had conflicts with your children based on amount of screen time, hours of computer usage, eating vegetables or buying a toy and game. Parental approach of “because I have said so” does not teach them conflict resolution skills instead it increases the frequency of arguments, power struggles and them back talking to you. As parents you can practice stating your case, then being quiet. Ignore their argumentative comments, and walk away if you must. Let your children get used to your word being “final.”If you feel like everything has turned into a conflict, remember to work on your connection and relationship with your child by doing fun things together. Also check your own attitude and how you are approaching things. May be you are commanding and demanding instead of inviting cooperation, and being encouraging? Conflicts are not easy but they do serve a wonderful purpose of helping us accept our children as individuals and not our carbon copies. Let them complain a bit. As long as it’s respectful, sometimes let your child have the last word. Often a statement, such as, “Why do I have to do it?” doesn’t require an answer, nor does it deserve one. Often, a child’s mutterings really mean, “I’ll do it ‘because I have to, but I don’t like it.” Set rules for debating. Some children really do enjoy debating an issue. If your child is like this, set ground rules for when and how issues can be debated. No raising of voices, no name calling, quiet listening to the other person’s point of view. Your child must understand that some things cannot be argued, that there are some things the parents must decide. Have a standard reply for when an issue cannot be debated, “This is not open for discussion”.

• Offer choices. Get in the habit of offering your child choices, instead of issuing commands. Children who are argumentative will have less opportunity to practice the skill if you offer a choice.
• If a child has developed a habit of back-talk it will take firm action to stop the behaviour. Have a meeting with your child to announce that back-talk will no longer be tolerated. Decide on a series of consequences that will occur each time back-talk occurs. Consequences may involve losing a privilege.• Make sure you consistently enforce the consequences decided on, and that they make things right with the person they back chatted.
• When arguing is becoming unending, stop yourself and discuss the situation with them, particularly how you both could have responded differently to prevent the situation escalating.
• Acknowledge the feelings they had in the situation, without permitting the behaviour.

DONTS • Avoid engaging yourselves with the argument – it takes two to argue, so walk away, ignore it or be the broken record by repeating what you have already said.
• Don’t take what they say to heart. Backchat that consists of “It’s not fair, you don’t love me, if you loved me you would….” Is not an indicator of how much you love them.• Never change your mind because of the backchat. If you have already got them to try and convince you and you’re still not convinced, let “NO” be your final word and keep it that way. Otherwise back chat adds to their toolbox of things to get their own way.
• Don’t sweat on the small stuff. If they are mumbling away to themselves about how much they hate washing the dishes and it isn’t fair because their friends don’t have to wash dishes as they get off the couch and walk to the kitchen – just leave them to get it out of their system.

AFTER SEEING HOW WE CAN MANAGE BACK TALK .. Lets remember we can’t and should not give in situations which are harmful to our kids … but other times we need to listen to their voice.

We feel like we must maintain a minimum standard of authority as parents. Partially because that was the model WE grew up with (e.g. “I would NEVER have spoken to my parents that way!”), and partially because we want to feel like we have some sense of control over our kids. Life is easier (in the short-term, when they just do what we say). But we don’t ultimately have control over our kids. Not really.

Kids come into the world with a path of their own to follow. From a very early age they start teaching us this lesson, veritably screaming at us: “It’s not about you; it’s about me!”And this is the crux we need to rememeber when they back talking to … they are trying to reconnect with us and working at keeping the channels of communication open, we need to should respect that.

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