Here are five tips to help you reduce backtalk in your house from parenting expert Amy McCready, founder of Positive Parenting Solutions.
Own your role: Power struggles that lead to backtalk are a two-way street and parents also play a starring role. Be aware of your day in and day out communication with your kids (and your spouse, for that matter!) Watch your tone of voice and minimize the amount of ordering, correcting and directing you do. No one wants to be “bossed around” all day and the natural reaction is to fight back.
Remember, it’s not about “winning” the battle. It’s about recognizing that your child needs more control over her life and helping her find ways to have positive power within your boundaries.
Fill the attention basket: Kids of all ages have an attention basket -– plain and simple. If they don’t get sufficient positive attention, they will use negative behaviors to provoke us until they get our attention. From their perspective, negative attention is better than no attention at all. Fill their attention baskets in positive ways by spending one-on-one time with your kids daily. It doesn’t have to be a long time – just 10 minutes when they have your undivided time and attention (if the phone rings, don’t answer… if your Blackberry chirps, let it go.) As you fill their attention baskets positively and proactively, your kids will become more cooperative and less likely to provoke power struggles.
Finding a spare 10 minutes to spend with each child can seem daunting in a busy non-stop life, but think of it as an “investment” in good behavior, a calmer home and less backtalk.
Give power to the people: Find ways to give your people the positive power they need. Provide more choices — within your family boundaries –- so they can have more control over their world. To a toddler, power means choosing between a Batman and Spiderman toothbrush. To a teenager, it can be allowing him to decide which restaurant the family goes to on Saturday night.
Chill out: Don’t overreact! Kids talk back to get a reaction. When you get upset and respond with “you will not talk to me that way, young man”, they score with a power payoff.
Instead, get eye to eye and very calmly say, “I feel hurt/disrespected when you speak to me that way. When I hear that tone of voice, I’m going to walk away. I’ll be happy to talk with you when we can speak to each other respectfully.”
Then – walk away! The next time it happens, don’t remind; don’t say a word. Just calmly walk away. It sends the message, “I won’t participate in this power struggle with you.”
Rule of law: Be very clear about the rules in your house and be equally clear about the consequences if the rules are broken. Then, if kids push the limits, follow through -– each and every time. Parents don’t have to be harsh or overly strict. They just have to set fair limits, communicate those limits clearly and be consistent in implementing consequences when appropriate.
Amy McCready is the founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and mom to two boys, ages 12 and 14. Positive Parenting Solutions teaches parents of toddlers to teens how to correct misbehaviors permanently without nagging, reminding or yelling.
I believe making the world a better place begins at home by teaching the youth of today respect and patience. I hope this article brings you piece of mind in knowing that you are doing everything you can do in order to be the best parent, and example, for your children.