"I can't believe that came out of my child's mouth!"
One of the most frequent issues parents face with a child is back-talk. It can be frustrating, embarrassing, and can test even the most patient parents! So what can be done?
A two year old uses the word "NO" frequently. It is their way of trying to establish a sense of who they are apart from their parents. They aren't trying to be mean or hurt your feelings; they are just trying to assert themselves. Does this mean parents should allow their toddlers to speak with disrespect? Of course not. However, many of the power struggles that result in verbal defiance can be avoided by providing a toddler with many choices throughout the day. Ask her, "Do you want to wear the red shirt or the blue shirt?" "Would you like peaches or applesauce after lunch?" By doing this she makes choices, feels some control, and will be less disagreeable. There will be times, however, when it will be necessary to let your child know that certain things are NOT ok to say.
Three and four year olds love to ask 'Why?" They want reasons for everything, especially concerning what they can and can't do. They will challenge every circumstance and become frustrated and impatient when things do not go as they wish. The best way to handle these outbursts is with calm short explanations. State your case and move on. Remember, you cannot control your child, you can only control yourself. Model the behavior you wish to nurture by using self-control and an appropriate tone of voice.
School-Age: "It's not fair!"
By the time children are five or six years old they have the ability to understand what is and isn't acceptable behavior and why. They also have the ability to manipulate and love to get in the last word! This is also the beginning of intense peer relationships and they care more about what their friends think than their parents. Some of the most common phrases that school-age children use are, "But, that's not fair!" and "Everyone else's mom let's them ..!" Don't fall into this trap or allow them to bait you into losing your cool. Let your child know that you understand their position but if they continue to argue and use a disrespectful tone they will have to go to their room until they can calm down and talk with you rationally. Set your limits and stick to them. Limits help children develop inner control- the ultimate goal!
Preteens: "What's the big deal?"
Instead of taking responsibility, this age group often puts parents on the defensive. Parents will frequently hear, "What are YOU getting so bent out of shape about?" or "I was just…" or maybe, "What's YOUR problem?" During this stage it is important that parents teach their preteens to take ownership of the problem. Try not to attack or blame. State your feelings in concrete terms and use restraint and respect. Try, "When you (forget to call, borrow my things without asking, or complain constantly), I feel…."
Teens: "Leave me alone! Get off my case!"
Teens think differently than adults! If your teen says he needs some space, try to give it to him. If the subject is a volatile one, you might try writing him a note or email instead of direct confrontation. Listen to what he has to say and let him know that even if you disagree, you want what you think is best for him. Remember, you are the authority in your house and you set the limits.
No matter how hard you try, you cannot avoid disagreements with your children, but you can learn how to fight fair. Following is a list of suggestions that each family member should adhere to during an argument: