Overcast   34.0F  |  Forecast »
Edit Module

Stop the Sass How to Deal When Kids Talk Back

Sick of the sass? Here are some tips to help parents who are dealing with mouthy kids.

Back talk is a long-accepted (yet dreaded) part of teenage years. But what about that transitional, young tween phase? When a previously sweet 9-year-old kid lashes out or snaps at his or her parents, it can be pretty jarring.

So what's a parent to do when kids start getting mouthy? Some southeast Michigan experts piped up to Metro Parent on dealing with kids' sass.

What's going on?

While your child's behavior may come as a shock, it's key to keep calm, says social worker Craig McLean of St. John Eastwood Clinic in Royal Oak. Resist any urge to snap back or recoil in horror.

After all, McLean says, part of the reason kids talk back is a lack of language development. Just like the toddler who can't talk and hits because she wants to get something across to a playmate, bigger kids experiment with their spoken words.

"They are testing the water," says McLean, "seeing how far they can go with a particular language and a particular tone."

In the process of exploring the world through language, they may say things that push the limits – and then adjust when they see the kind of reaction they get. They're trying to exert personal power to test their independence. And, as a result, they wind up in power struggles with parents and will use their newfound language to try and win the battle.

'I' messages

Parents should give kids skills and words so that they can express themselves in an appropriate way.

Teresa Sandner, a parent education specialist with the Community Assessment Referral and Education (CARE) center of Macomb, offers a tip from raising her own children.

"I would give them 'I' messages and let them know, 'If you continue to speak disrespectfully, that there are things that I do for you that I won't be willing to do,'" she explains. "Little things that are not required as a parent, but things you do because you love them."

Sandner says "I" messages also can tell your child how you felt as a result of their behavior. I messages start with yourself and your feelings – "I feel" or "I felt" – instead of "you" messages, which start with an accusation such as "You did this (bad thing)."

Drawing lines

Sandner says parents should correct egregious behavior, but try to ignore any minor irritating comments. Sandner acknowledges that it's hard to do, but sometimes kids talk back for attention, so withholding that can eliminate the bad behavior.

Parents have to make it clear that talking back or sassing is unacceptable and, if it continues, there will be consequences – such as a time-out or limiting favorite activities. Kids need to understand that if they want to be treated with respect, then they need to show that respect to their parents.

"Still, you have to give kids some latitude as they're testing their wings," Sandner says.

Oftentimes kids just want some personal power, and parents can give it to them – to a certain extent. For instance, allow them to decide what they are going to wear (within reason). Small little concessions of power could prevent you from having daily power struggles with your child.

The most important thing to remember is that they are young and may not understand that the words or tone they are using is harsh.

"It's the parent's job to help kids understand their power," Sandner says, "as well as what is appropriate language and what is not."

Add your comment:
Edit Module
Edit Module
Advertisement
Edit Module

More »Latest Articles & Blog Posts

Hanukkah Crafts for Kids: Holiday Picture Frame

Hanukkah Crafts for Kids: Holiday Picture Frame

If you're celebrating the holiday and looking for quick and easy crafts for kids, this fun and affordable little keepsake is a great way to display family memories.

Dad Gets Unexpected Reaction to Terrible Christmas Gifts

Dad Gets Unexpected Reaction to Terrible Christmas Gifts

British dad pranks his kids with bad Christmas presents, but didn't get the reaction he was expecting – and it's pretty sweet.

Simple Holiday Family Crafts to Make with On-Hand Material

Simple Holiday Family Crafts to Make with On-Hand Material

Does your family have paper cups, Legos, plastic spoons or toilet-paper rolls lying around? Transform them into angels, snowmen and even a chimney for Santa!

Bath Time Safety Tips for Babies and Toddlers

Bath Time Safety Tips for Babies and Toddlers

What's the best way to bathe your child? How can you keep them safe in the tub? A pediatric doctor at St. John Hospital and Medical Center in Detroit has tips.

Snowman Dessert Recipes: Tasty and Cute Ideas

Snowman Dessert Recipes: Tasty and Cute Ideas

Who doesn't love Frosty the Snowman? Kids will enjoy making – and eating! – some of these adorable and delicious snowman recipes.

Holiday Stamping Favorite Supplies from Stampin' Up

Holiday Stamping Favorite Supplies from Stampin' Up

Crafty company Stampin' Up offers a variety of fun stampers, punches and paper that transform into cool gift tags, cards and other fun DIY projects.

British Mom Sells Breast Milk to Pay for Christmas Gifts

British Mom Sells Breast Milk to Pay for Christmas Gifts

A mom of four from Manchester, England gets $20 for a bottle of her breast milk, which she sells online, reportedly to buy her kids presents for the holidays.

Edit Module
Advertisement
Edit Module
Advertisement
Edit Module
Advertisement