Navigating Back Talk by Sandra Huber

A Guest Post by Sandra Huber, The Soulful Parent

Have you ever been embarrassed in public by what has come out of your child’s mouth? Has your son ever shocked you with a statement or phrase you are sure he’s never heard from you?  Do you find yourself feeling so frustrated at your kids poor choice of words or gestures?

Enter a world you were sure you would never visit, let alone set “camp” there:

The world of back-talk and disrespect!

Many of the parents I work with find themselves baffled by their child’s behavior when it comes to sassy talk.  As our children get older their vocabulary expands and their knowledge of the world around them expands.  They start to differentiate from us and with that, we are sometimes faced with their use of seemingly disrespectful tones and attitudes.  If you combine their use of words with gestures and actions you can end up wondering who has taken possession of your formerly sweet child!
One thing to remember is that our children are negotiating the world around them and don’t always have the appropriate tools to achieve their ultimate goal: to be heard and have their needs met.
Many times, parents find themselves exhausted and feeling like things are spinning out of control while they are desperately trying to keep the balance. When you feel like you are “parenting under fire”, feeling like you don’t even know how to respond to your kids sassy behavior, remember “only one of you can have a meltdown at a time”.

Some suggestions to help you navigate successfully the waters of backtalk:

  1. Set clear limits and boundaries as well as consequences for transgressions.  Let your child know clearly and lovingly what behavior is not acceptable and make those your “family rules”. In our home, we have the rule that if you “hit you sit”, making it clear to even the smallest child that there are clear and definite consequences if she decides to use her fists instead of her words.
  2. Follow through with consequences:  Enforcing the rules we have taken time and care to establish is not always pleasant or even convenient. But our children are watching everything we do and holding us accountable for the things we say to them.   Kids need to know what is expected of them but they also need to know that the rules apply consistently. If you agreed that there will be no TV if your son uses a disrespectful tone or word, make sure to follow through: treat consequences as promises you have made to yourself and to your child. It will ensure that your children know that you say what you mean and mean what you say!
  3. Become the Sherlock Holmes in your family!  Make sure to take the time to be a detective and find all the times when your child IS using his manners and choosing to act respectfully. Our children learn stronger lessons when we encourage their strengths instead of focusing only on their misbehavior. We get more of what we focus on!!  The more you genuinely praise their efforts and recognize their victories, the more they learn that you “see” them in their wholeness as a person, not just as the brat that you are always nagging at. You encourage more of the behavior you want by focusing on what is already working!

Sandra Huber is the “soul” and parent coach behind the Soulful Parent. Sandra’s mission is to empower moms of tweens ages 7 to 11 years old, to find their own parenting voice, recognizing that they are their child’s best expert. She understands that your kids, your family and your life are as individual as your fingerprints. Through seminars, blog articles, her own radio show and speaking engagements, Sandra brings humor and hope to moms all across the country, with practical solutions to solve issues ranging from defiance and disrespect, to tweens body issues. To learn more about her work with busy moms check out her website and her  Facebook Fan Page at

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One thought on “Navigating Back Talk by Sandra Huber

  1. Great points, Sandra! When my kids do this in public or at home the answer’s always the same: “I’ll talk to you when you’re ready to speak respectfully.” Then I turn away. When they flip out (which happens often with their bipolar and ADHD), I just go outside and pull out my book/phone to read until they’re calm. Most times, just the change of scenery and fresh air get them reoriented.