Put An End to Backtalk
“I hate you”, “make me”, and the especially popular “no”, are only three of the many different forms of backtalk I experience on a weekly basis. It happens mostly without warning, at odd times, when I half expect that we’ll make it through the week without this problem coming up, before—WHAM—I’m slammed by an “I hate you”, sending my heart reeling. Now, I’m not naïve enough to believe that my kids mean it when they say this to me, for the most part they don’t have even an inkling of what the word hate even means. Neither am I silly enough to imagine that I won’t hear it again, most probably when it reappears in their teen years (but that’s another topic for another day), meaning that for the time being at least, I’m stuck trying to deal with it in the here and now.
Backtalk, or rude responses to the person in charge, is typically used in reference to kids who are just coming into their own and learning to express their feelings verbally rather than through tears. Most normally found in preschool classrooms, backtalk is triggered by a child’s need to exert some form of power in situations and establish dominancy over another. While some form of confidence is encouraged in toddlers, backtalk is usually something worth putting an end to early on, so as to avoid a rebellious and excessively rude teenager.
You’re lying if you tell me you haven’t experienced some form of backtalk, after all, it comes in many shapes and sizes, just like our children. Whether you’ve heard something from my personal list, or something more creative, you’re likely wondering how to go about putting an end to it, while keeping your toddler from losing their natural confidence and therefore maintain their growing leadership skills.
You’re Actually the One In Charge
Though it might not always feel like it, when it comes to you and you’re preschooler, you’re actually the one in charge. No matter how capable they are of making your heart melt by looking at them, or conversely how well they can send your hands shaking as you recognize the precursor of a meltdown, you are the adult and therefore the boss of any situation. Make it very clear to your child that you will under no circumstances tolerate backtalk. This means, as frustrating as it can be, that you are better left keeping silent, rather than engage in verbal sparring. This will only have the adverse affect, letting your toddler know that you’re not only okay with them talking back, but that you’re willing to give them control over the situation.
Create A Punishment
Just as you shouldn’t engage your child’s rudeness, you shouldn’t use an empty threat to teach them a lesson. When your toddler backtalks, let them know immediately that their behavior is unacceptable before giving them a form of punishment that can be carried out with 24 hours. Ensure that the punishment will have some impact on their behavior, teaching them that what they did was not allowed, while giving you back the power that they’ve attempted to take. Common punishments include taking away TV time for the night, or not letting them have a play-date they were looking forward to. It’s important to realize that your child may try and further the argument by backtalk-ing more, in which case you should resist punishing them again and instead proceed to carry out their punishment as planned.
Once things have calmed down, your child will likely come to you head down, and hands behind their back. When this happens, resist from pulling back on the punishment, despite the anger it might exhibit from your now calm child. Explain that you’re happy they understand what they did was wrong but that you’ll still be enforcing their punishment regardless. Likewise, if your child questions their punishment and why you’re giving it to them, do not explain yourself further than how you will not tolerate backtalk because it will be white noise to your child. Rather, explain that you will not accept their behavior and so you will continue on with your preschooler’s punishment.
Give Your Child Back Their Confidence
While punishing backtalk and keeping it to a minimum is necessary, taking away their confidence and sense of self is not. Therefore, when emotions have cooled, discuss with your toddler words that are acceptable to use when they are feeling upset or angry at a given situation. “I feel like—“ and “I wish we could—“ are both great alternatives for simply saying hurtful things. Doing this will not only give your child back a piece of their strong-willed personality, but will help you both distinguish between real feelings and angry outbursts.
Backtalk, while frustrating for a parent, is a means for your child to come into their own, making it vital that you encourage their determined personality while limiting aggression. After three or four times of fulfilled punishment, you should find that your child’s backtalk decreases dramatically or ceases all together. If, however, you find that your child is still expressing their thoughts angrily, contact your local preschool, San Diego is filled with great ones, who have always been ready and willing to help me whenever I need it.