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Three Ways to Win the Backtalking Battle

By Jessa McClure

Angry MomBacktalk. Backchat. Mouthiness. Whatever you call it, it's one of the negative aspects of parenting a budding adolescent. They are beginning to assert their independence, much like they did when they were two or three and refused to eat anything, or threw themselves on the floor of the grocery store.

But now, their quest to separate from you and show their individuality the comes with nasty remarks and words spoken under their breath. While you want your child to find their voice, that doesn't mean you have to let them say anything with a sharp tongue.

Here are some words of advice and some tips for those who might be experiencing this bump in the road to the teenage years.

1. Set Boundaries
While your child might be expressing their newfound independence, it's important not to let their backtalk become an everyday occurrence. Set rules about when and where it is appropriate to express their opinion.

Carla Clardy, college professor and mother of five, said she can take over-zealous pre-teen venting, but she doesn't allow her children to step over the line.

"I disallow [backtalk] in public and give my children ‘a look' when they start backtalking me or their father," she said. "If and when the backtalk becomes excessive, the child is asked to calm down and reassess his or her arguments in a more reasonable fashion in his or her own space."

And if you've already said "no" to something, stick to what you've said. Consistency will show your child that you are in charge and won't be swayed by negative behavior.

2. Choose Your Battles
As much as we love our children, they know how to push our buttons and make us react when we probably shouldn't react. But you don't have to give in.

The experts at the Child Development Institute say you should remember that you're the adult in the situation. "You don't have to stoop their level. Responding may also make the situation worse."

Clardy said she advises parents to give their children a little leeway when it comes to backtalk, but give them clear parameters of what is "too far."

"I'd rather a little backtalk in my home than teen drinking or other forms of ‘coping,'" she said.

3. Allow Self-Expression
If your child continually feels the need to argue his or her point or use their words to cut you or others down, then they might need a more positive outlet. Try encouraging them to join the debate team or the drama department or take an art class.

"Two of my five children who expressed extreme degrees of backtalk have great verbal skills and sharp argumentative minds," Clardy said. "I think they have a bright future in law."


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