Talking Back: The Tormenting Tool of Kids

It was tough for habitually timid Poly to cope up with the interminable, seemingly illogical repartees of her 9-year-old son. There would initially be patient coaxing, cajoling and even promised extravaganzas; yet it would invariably end up in a cockfight between the two with the despot vociferously reigning supreme.

Any reply that culminates to being impudent, insolent or argumentative can be unmistakably pinned down as talking back, and Poly above enlisted herself in the alarming category of those mothers who survived this onslaught almost each day.

Differentiating a child talking back from verbal abuse

However, it’s essential to alienate it from the more pertinent verbal abuse for, while the former remains limited to sudden lashes, the latter borders on negativity and is unabashedly hurtful. So as to disarm kids with this potent verbal weapon, parents need to be enlightened with the successive stages involved in the growth process of the child; each child carves a distinct pattern of likes and dislikes as he/she marches forward in the perilous journey towards adulthood. Let’s not make it impassable.

Reasons behind talking back: What makes your kid yell

There can be various reasons goading a child to hurl spiteful remarks:

  • Due to fear
  • On imitating someone
  • In trying to explain desperately

According to Educational Psychologist, Erikson: a child undergoes several stages as he/she progresses and at each stage, he/she confronts a crisis which if not duly attended to, erupts in an unsought for manner. It remains on the conscious parent how effectively to channelize the crisis into something fruitful.

The crisis may initiate as early as birth and plod on till late adulthood. Here, we would concentrate however on the growing up years; those spanning from 2 to 18; right from the incoherent mutterings of babies to the bold talking of grown up kids.

From toddlers to early childhood (2 years to 5 years)

Aided with the ability to articulate even tough incoherently initially, the child from this stage can resist demands of parents with an audible ‘no’ or resort to voluntary talk back .Later, the child’s interaction with other kids kindles his potential to take decisions or lead which the overprotective parent may override or forcibly condemn.

“Mom, let me watch cartoons now.”

“But no son, it’s late, and you’d miss school tomorrow.”

“Who  cares?”

Here, the refusal triggers the kid to feel frustrated, compelling him to employ the only tool he has: words.

Put on the brakes on such kids talking back to parents

A resourceful mother thus has to:

  • Avoid bickering
  • Provide sound logic to root out the child’s plea
  • Be attentive to his needs too

Middle childhood (6 years to 12 years)

Erikson points out that as the child ascends the age ladder, he juggles between industry versus inferiority. The child develops the sense of fairness, and consequently, reckless criticisms tarnish his/her eagerness, resolutely turning him/her hostile in speech and behavior.

How to stop talking back in middle childhood

An observant mother consequently should:

  • Appreciate his/her point of view
  • Explain what’s acceptable
  • Provide time to kid to explain vocal outburst

Later childhood or teenage (13 to 18 years)

When Allie from Sparks “Notebook” vehemently opposes all her mother’s propositions into making her comply with the fact that Noah Calhoun’s isn’t worthy of her, it’s the typical trait of her age that is glaringly visible. Allie is a teenage, and the urge to be correct, independent regarding choice can hardly be overruled. Allie curses, yells, protests. A teen is vocal about her judgment and scarcely needs advice.

How to discipline a teenager

A mother needs to be extra careful when her child confronts the terrible adolescent phase. No punishment or criticism, but she has to:

  • Be patient while addressing the issue
  • Allow the teen to express freely without criticism
  • Determine the cause
  • Keep the options open

Talking back a boon: The rebellious spirit of your sassy child may be a blessing in future

Clinical Psychologist Kelly M. Flanagan points out that the inability to say ‘no’ forms one of the most insidious causes of human suffering. Thus, a child who does not meekly conform to every demand put forward by parents reflects the blooming his/her individual choice, preferences.

Naturally, parents need to nourish this rebelliousness with patience and care and be a little less worried about consequences.

It cannot be ignored that though being parents, we desire obedient kids who would scarcely talk back to elders, argue, and in a nutshell be a paragon of virtue, it’s in fact, fanciful thinking. Nonetheless, deep in our secluded hearts, we shamelessly confide to own kids who are daring, who tend to be variant. We pine for what we don’t have and can hardly escape our cravings.

If we are erroneous in so many vital aspects, can’t our kids have follies too? Can’t they be redeemed? After all, “the quality of mercy is not strained/ It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven.”

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