It’s an interesting phrase that we’ve all heard at one point or another in life, “Don’t you talk back to me!” Usually when we’re young and just starting to figure things out for ourselves, questioning everything and not accepting any answer without a deserved explanation as to why. Yes, it can get annoying dealing with the kid that says, “why?” after everything you say, but trust me, it’s a good thing.
When your kids push back, it’s actually great for their development – Yes, it’s true, and researchers agree, this behavior is actually developmentally healthy for children. You don’t want your child to always just blindly agree with whatever is being said, do you? These little moments where the child is testing authority are actually building blocks for having control over their own lives. They’re practicing a skill. Learning with you first is important, that way they know not to succumb to peer pressure or to go along with an adult who may be acting inappropriate.
Focus on HOW they push back – Everyone wants their kids to master the social skills and dynamics at play when it comes to peer pressure, danger, and difficult life decisions. Don’t focus so much on your child pushing back (they’re going to push back), but rather on HOW they push back and HOW you respond to them. Easy questions to ask yourself include: Are you teaching your child to challenge you with respect? Are you setting positive examples for appropriate communication? How do you help them understand and take responsibility for their actions?
Who is in control, anyway? – Having your children say no to you can trigger insecurities about your efficacy as a parent. As a parent, you feel like you must maintain a standard of authority, and you want some feeling of control over your kids because life is a little easier when they just do what you say to do, but ultimately, you don’t have control over your kids. They come into this world with a path of their own to follow, try to understand this.
What your child is really saying – The message is always the same: They are independent beings with unique thoughts, feelings, and ideas. They are on their journey through life just as you have been and continue to do. Growing into healthy, mature adults relies much on making decisions for themselves and negotiating what they want.
Remember, you’re raising a future adult – Take the time to figure out the best ways to communicate effectively with your children. Simple responses to ugly tones and language typically yield better results, for example: instead of saying, “How dare you talk to me that way” try out, “Do you have a different way you want to say that to me?” Requesting chores to be done can be executed in a similar way, be sure to give them options about when they can do them and if they would like a reminder to do it, etc.
Just remember the whole thing is a complex process and it will take time, but well-placed questions and answers will help shift the relationship in a new, supportive, and understanding direction, helping to foster your child’s independence, which is what parenting is all about.