Have you ever asked your child to do a simple task, and instead of just doing it, they give you fifteen thousand reasons why they can’t do it? Have you ever had to stop in the middle of a conversation with your child and ask, “Who are you talking to?” because their tone was crazy. I have. Here’s something else to file under, “Things People Never Tell You Before You Have Children”; as soon as your child has the ability to talk, there’s a good chance that sass is not far behind. Now, I recognize different folks identify sassiness in different ways. The type of sass I’m referring to is often called talking back or back talk, and can be observed, pretty much daily, by my 5-year-old daughter. I can’t even lie, she got it honest. I had the same sassy mouth when I was growing up, and it took me years and years (and years) of redirection before I was able to get a grip on my smart mouth. What can I say, it’s the only downside to having an articulate child!
Fortunately, just because a child has a sassy mouth, it doesn’t mean that they’re a “bad seed”. With a little bit of redirection, you can help your little smarty pants use their, uh, expressiveness and language skills in a more positive way that will benefit them and ensure that you and other folks
don’t think they’re a brat are able to communicate with them without dealing with a bunch of back talk.
Why Do Kids Talk Back?
Before I give you the tips, let me just tell you WHY kids talk back in the first place. Okay, sometimes it’s just a personality thing. I’ve talked about it before. Ayva is bossy, just like her mama. She thinks she knows EVERYTHING because, she’s 5, and I couldn’t possibly know more than her. She’s intelligent and has really great reasoning for her age, and developmentally, she’s right on target. Older toddlers and preschoolers really like to test the boundaries of their environment to see what might fly and what absolutely will not fly. They finally have, not only the words, but also the intention behind the points that they want to get across, and there is rarely a time that they are going to let an opportunity to use those newfound skills go by.
I’m not completely against the sassy mouth. I just know from years of experience working with children from kindergarten through middle school that if the back talk isn’t nipped in the bud early, it starts to get plain old disrespectful. And we don’t do disrespectful up in here. So, I’ve gathered a few tips together to help myself, and you, know what to do when your child has a sassy mouth.
What To Do When Your Child Has A Sassy Mouth
1. Model good behavior.
Terrence and I are sarcastic and we love to tease each other. Ayva actually has the same dry humor as us, and can hold her own when we’re joking around. At 5, though, she may be able to get the humor, but doesn’t have the ability quite yet to determine when it’s appropriate and when Mommy’s not playing. I’m trying to be more aware of my tone, and joking more in ways that are less sassy, but equally as fun.
2. Address the sass immediately.
Different families have different rules, but the Rileys don’t do backtalk. It doesn’t matter if we’re out with other kids who are being sassy to their parents, if I get the sense that Ayva is following behind them trying to test the back talk waters, I pull her to the side and remind her of the way that our family talks to each other. Little kids have notoriously (and developmentally) short memories, so waiting until after the moment has passed won’t have the same impact. Remember, you don’t have to embarrass your child, a little reminder will do.
3.Teach them about the power of words.
If your child is old enough to talk back, they are ready to learn about the power of words. Be intentional about helping them to see that the things that they say can hurt or help others depending on how they use them. Check out some books from the library about some great speakers like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and let them watch videos like The Kid President to help bring those lessons home.
4. Make time to listen to your child.
Sometimes, kids act out or talk back when they feel like they aren’t being heard. If disrespect and talking back is becoming a real problem, make sure you’re giving your little one attention when they need it. One thing that Ayva’s preschool teacher helped me to discover about myself last year was that I was pretty controlling at home. I decided what we ate for dinner, and most of our activities. Not giving Ayva space to practice her newfound independence meant that she took it when she could, usually in the form of sass.
5. Remember that sassy can be redirected.
The good thing about a child with a sassy mouth is that they’re talking. That’s good! They’re learning to express themselves, and how to communicate with others. Sassy can be annoying, but it’s not the worse thing a child can be. Remember to keep it in context!