Inside: Whether you’re dealing with a 3 year-old talking back, a 4 year-old talking back or a 12 year-old talking back, these two powerful techniques are simple and can completely change the dynamics with your child.
About a year ago, I was going through my perpetual scroll of Facebook when I came across something that stopped me in my tracks.
A video of a young boy screaming back at his mother. He was enraged. Sobbing. Out of control. He started screaming obscenities, and as his mother recorded the whole thing, and later shared it with the world, my heart sunk to my stomach.
I wanted to tell her something. Well…first I wanted to hug her, and then I wanted to tell her something. Because if she knew about how to handle back talk and disrespect, it could change everything for both her and her son.
When you see a 4 year-old talking back.
There are times when kids feel “trapped in a cage,” and there is seemingly no path out. In their deep desire to feel heard, kids who feel trapped will act out using the only power tools they know – the ones they learn from adults: They scream, yell, argue, boss or punish.
Acting out is the child’s way of communicating. A child who is doing those things is actually trying to get you to understand that he is right to feel the way he does and wishes you could see past his actions to the person he is underneath.
If you only hear, see and react to the disrespectful behavior (symptoms of an underlying problem) instead of the message – “I want you to understand who I really am!” – the child will have no choice but to escalate his message or disconnect from you completely.
I get the parents side too.
As a parent you do so much for your kids. Things they don’t even know about or understand. The laundry you’re folding at midnight. The job you’re working to earn money for the roof over their heads. The nights you can’t sleep because you’re worried about your kids’ breathing. And all you want is a little something in return: Respect.
Whether you have a 4 year-old talking back or a 12 year-old talking back, it’s only natural to feel powerless. You want to help your child, but it seems like nothing works. You don’t know what to do!
And…when you feel powerless, you’re going to want to yell, scream, punish or videotape your child and post it on the internet so you can feel powerful.
It makes so much sense! Of course, you would do anything to feel powerful when you don’t know how to help your child!
Without realizing it, you and your child feel much of the same feeling—powerlessness.
What if you knew an easier way out?
When you have a child talking back, they are desperately asking you for help. Remember that it always starts with us — the parents. Kids cannot even think at the maturity level needed to break a behavior cycle, let alone do anything about it. So, as the parents, it has to start with us.
If you’re able to get to the bottom of kids’ communications, they will feel very understood and accepted. This allows kids to move out of the “trapped in a cage” feeling, away from the back talk and disrespect, and into a place of cooperation. When kids trust and feel safe, they will start to grow and surprise you in the most amazing ways.
How to stop a child talking back.
It always starts with validation.
This is the step of connection, and the easiest way to validate a child is to use a technique called SAY WHAT YOU SEE®, where you step out of your head and into the moment with your child.
If you are able to sit or squat down next to your child for a moment and objectively observe the situation (what is your child thinking, feeling, doing or saying), you will take a huge first step toward building trust and connection with your child. This only takes a short amount of time.
Validating kids is not a reward, it’s connecting so your child can feel heard and understood. Once a kids’ upsets are heard, they will move out of the “trapped in a cage” feeling and open up to your guidance.
But…what if validation doesn’t stop talking back?
There’s a simple technique you can use to meet your child’s need for power quickly. This works extremely well whether you have a 2, 4 or 12 year-old talking back. If a child shouts at you or looks increasingly upset, take a very deliberate step back. If possible, you can squat down to below eye-level and say, “Looks like I’m too close and you don’t like that! Tell me where to move.”
The child may point and say, “Move there in the corner.”
You’ll move and your child may say, “No, not there. There.”
When a kids correct you, they are starting to meet their need for power, and you’ll know this technique is starting to work.
That simple step puts kids in the lead, helps kids feel a sense of control and begins to meet their need for power in a way that is OK with me (rather than screaming and shouting). When you allow a child to feel a small sense of control, talking back will immediately begin to de-escalate.
Your child will open up to your guidance.
When kids’ needs are met they have an amazing ability to stay calm and cooperate with you. That’s just how kids work. Once you’re on your child’s side, offer guidance. It might sound something like this…
“Let’s start over. When you’re upset about something, you can say, ‘I don’t like that’ or ‘I’m not okay with that’ and then we can talk about it and problem solve together.”
That’s the starting point.
More than anything, your child needs you.
Imagine how awesome it would feel to know that when your child has a conflict with someone in their adult life that they can handle it calmly and problem-solve?
That’s what parenting is all about! To raise our kids so they can become successful, happy, healthy and thriving adults.
A year ago, I did reach out to the mom who shared a video of her son for the world to see. I wanted to hug her and let her know that I understood. I understood why she did it, but also that I knew her and her son were more alike than she realized.
While I never heard back from her, the video was eventually removed. I can only hope that she was able to see herself and her son for who they really were–two people doing the best they could with the tools they had.
And I can only hope that with more tools—like the ones shared in this post—they can enjoy calmer days and more peaceful interactions. All parents and kids deserve that.
All of these ideas and simple techniques come from Language of Listening®, the 3-part parenting framework that I use. It’s changed our family’s life and I know it can change yours too. For the past two years, I’ve trained as a Language of Listening coach, and in the coming months, I will be exclusively sharing my own Language of Listening course with a select group of readers.
If you’re interested and would like to learn more about the course when it’s available, simply sign up here or click the image below to join our select group of readers who will learn about the course first.
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