How much is too much Back Talk?

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There was a time way back when that if you even looked at your mom or dad the wrong way, there were serious repercussions.  Some would say that nowadays, children are getting away with saying just about anything.   We’re told as parents to let children express themselves and to treat them like equals.  The question is “How much is too much backtalk “and when should a parent draw the line when a children talk back?

What is Back Talk?

According to Merriam Webster’s Dictionary- “Backtalk”  is an  impudent, insolent, or argumentative reply.  To put it plainly, back talk is when a child responds to an authority figure such as a parent or teacher in a rude way.  Examples include a child saying “That’s not fair- No! –  I don’t have to! -I don’t care!  The list goes on and on.

Back talk can happen in the heat of a passionate argument, or simply during a request of some kind to a child.  The issue at hand is not that a child simply talks back but it’s how they talk back. The concern lies in the tone, attitude and overall negative energy behind what is s being said by the child.

While some research encourages parents to teach children assertiveness, there’s also much research that supports the fact that rude children who talk back become rude adults who” backtalk.”   Where do parents draw the line between giving a child an opportunity to express themselves  and  deterring disrespect in the home.  It comes down to the “Why”.  Parents should inquire into the underlying reason the child is talking back. Below are a few considerations.  Is the Child talking back because the;

1.          Child Feels Defensive: 

If a child feels a need to talk back because they feel defensive and attacked and talking back is a means of protecting themselves (as in fight or flight mode) then we need to teach the child another way to solve a very real problem they are experiencing.

2.         Parents are Permissive: 

If a child talks back because they believe it’s their right and they’ve picked up habits from the home that normalizes their behavior- then parents need to look at their role in either enabling this behavior or failing to correct it.

 3.     Child Lacks Communication Tools: 

 If a child talks back because they are simply frustrated and don’t have communication skills to express themselves effectively, then parents need to invest in ways to increase their child’s emotional intelligence.

Backtalk vs. being disrespectful

Back talk on the surface can seem disrespectful but the “Why” ultimately determines whether the intent was meant to be disrespectful. Backtalk could be a symptom of frustration, incompetence, brokenness or NOT. That’s why parents have to investigate the root cause of a child’s back talk.

 Different Positions on Back Talk

Some would argue that children should be allowed to express whatever they feel or think.  It sustains their innocence- and keeps them from internalizing any negative feelings or thoughts.  In the long run, this produces human beings that are authentic, honest and non-judgmental, because they’ve not been judged for their thoughts and feelings.

Others would argue there’s a way to speak, a time, and a place and children should have very strong boundaries as to what is and is not permissible or appropriate when it comes to communicating with adults. This helps morph a child’s mind to understand the concept of right and wrong- Without this moral compass a child believes anything goes, and can become an adult who is insensitive and in-empathic.

Ultimately, each individual has to reflect on their own personal values and find where on the continuum they lie.  It’s fair to say we do live in a different time, and we have children who have different mindsets and expectations in life. Are you a parent who thinks “Kids should be seen and not heard’ or have you jumped ship and now buy to the belief that children should have as much rights as everyone else irrespective of their  age.  Maybe- you’re somewhere in the middle. Either way,  it advisable that you be intentional about where you stand.

Tough Issue- No simple answers. If you have a strong willed child or are experiencing relationship difficulties with your child, we can help. Call us 1-866-503-7454

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