Four Ways to Respond to Back Talk & Sidestep Power Struggles

How do you respond to kid’s back talk?

Inside the Emotion Guide Collective, our peer support community, one of our members shared a genius way she responds to her child’s back talk and it got me thinking more about the connection between back talk and power struggles.

When we view back talk as rude, disrespectful, and argumentative behavior that is unacceptable and must be stopped, we create an environment for power struggles to thrive.

Here are four other ways to think about back talk and sidestep power struggles:

1. The child disagrees with you AND disagreeing is okay. They may need help developing the skills to disagree appropriately. Set a boundary around how they’re communicating. Acknowledge that they disagree with you and model a way they can better express their disagreement.

2. The child is angry and emotionally overwhelmed by the situation. They need help tending to their anger. Focus on empathizing with their emotions. When it feels helpful, guide them to use calm down tools.

3. The child is wired to strive for a sense of control. Choices and partnering can help them shift out of a, “I need to win.” perspective. Ask them, “How can we work together to create a solution here?” Or “Would you prefer Choice A or Choice B?”

4. The experience has triggered your feelings of disrespect. It might sound like this in your head: “How dare they treat me like this. Who do they think they are? I can’t let them get away with this.” and on and on your thoughts may go trying to get you to act out your anger towards the child. Once you’re able to offer yourself kindness and tend to your emotions, the charge will dissipate and you’ll be able to see that the child is simply exploring ways to get their needs met.

What can shift for you when you think differently about back talk? How do you want to respond when a child is talking back to you?

What is the Emotion Guide Collective?

The Emotion Guide Collective is our membership community for parents, educators, counselors and other helpers who guide kids aged 4-12 through emotions.

We’re co-creating a knowledge base of real-world experience, practical learning, and creative ideas so you have a place to get support and trusted answers to your questions.

Together, we’re creating a world where children grow up loving themselves.

Your Turn

If you’d like to be part of discussions like the one above, we’d love for you to join us inside the Emotion Guide Collective.  You can request your invitation here. 

Read more:

Just Pick Up the Sock! What to do when kids don’t listen.

A New Lens for Understanding Children’s Behavior

Who’s at Your Control Panel? An Emotional Awareness Activity for Kids