What To Do When Your Tween Talks Back

What To Do When Your Child Has A Sassy Mouth

Does your tween talk back? You’re not alone! 

What To Do When Your Child Has A Sassy Mouth

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 talking back differently depending on the type of family you have.

Some people might call it sass. In our family, we call it back talk. And it can be observed, pretty much daily, by my tween 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 or talks back, 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. Sometimes it’s just a personality thing. My daughter Ayva is bossy, just like her mama.

She thinks she knows EVERYTHING because, she’s a pre-teen, 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.

Younger children and tweens 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.  There is rarely a time that they are going to let an opportunity to use those skills go by.

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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 tween talks back.

What To Do When Your Child Talks Back

1. Model good behavior.

My husband 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.

She’s still a kid, 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 talking back 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.

Kids have notoriously (and developmentally appropriately) 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 tween attention when they need it.

When Ayva was in preschool, one of her teachers helped me to discover 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 independence meant that she took it when she could, usually in the form of sass.

Now, years later, I find the same to be true. She needs to be heard or she gets an attitude. Which, I think is a normal human reaction to not being listened to. 

5. Remember that talking back 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.  

When your tween talks back, it can be annoying. It’s not the worse thing a child can be. Remember to keep it in context!

14 responses to “What To Do When Your Tween Talks Back”

  1. Tim Wells Avatar

    Great post! There are days when I wonder why Dawn and I ever taught our children how to talk. They are way too much like their parents.

    Also, that picture of Ayva is hilarious. 😀

    1. BrandiJeter Avatar

      Haha, @Timpysan:disqus! That’s another way to think of it! LOL!

    2. Davida Sharpe-Haygood Avatar
      Davida Sharpe-Haygood

      Just found this post after going in on my daughter about her back talk. I needed this..

  2. MELISASource Avatar

    GIRL!!! You know that I have a TON of stories about this issue!! Lol So glad that you put together a handy dandy quick reference guide for Moms — we need it for sure!

    1. BrandiJeter Avatar

      Thanks, @MELISASource:disqus! Also a great reminder for myself, you know? She’s 5…this too shall pass. LOL!

  3. Summer Len Davis Avatar
    Summer Len Davis

    OH my gosh. Bookmarking because I know I’ll need the reminder!

    1. BrandiJeter Avatar

      Oh, @summerlendavis:disqus, you know I know YOU know. <3

  4. Natasha Nicholes Avatar

    My mom could have written this. That’s all I will say about that.

    1. BrandiJeter Avatar

      Mine, too, @natashanicholes:disqus! Like I said, Ayva got it honest. 🙂

  5. Notorious Spinks Avatar

    Child I had to get Kay tonight…she forgot she was dealing w/ Auntie ‘Londa and I don’t play that mess. I can’t stand disrespectful kids child and I do all I can to ensure that my girls understand what they can and can’t say.

    1. BrandiJeter Avatar

      It really is important, @notoriousspinks:disqus. I mean, we can teach them now, or they can learn what happens when you’re disrespectful LATER. Then, the teacher might not be as loving and forgiving.

  6. sookietex Avatar

    Good advice 😀 i am childless by choice but my mama did not allow sass & UR tips mirror her model 😀 i have to share something i observed recently—an incident with parent & child who could use these tips. approx 6 yr old impatient for dad to buy soda. dad says “Wait just a damn minute” child responds: “I can’t wait a damn minute” Feel free to ponder that ;D 😀

  7. K. Elizabeth (YUMMommy) Avatar

    Great tips! I’ve definitely been making more time for Moo and I to talk because since she started first grade she’s been picking up a lot of sass. I’ve had to explain to her that what some adults allow her classmates to say to them at school doesn’t apply in our household. Words can and do hurt because words have power and should be used with caution.

  8. Bridget Hayes Avatar
    Bridget Hayes

    Just when I feel like I may lose it and fly off the edge with many regrets, I find an article that may help. I know we joke at times but he doesn’t know when to quit. I have to remember to take a look at myself first and what part I played in his growth. I taught him how to pronounce words, the importance of being grammatically correct and how to spell but the hardest part is teaching him how words can show respect and/or disrespect and the power behind them. He also needs to learn to read body and facial language to better understand when to quit. I’m working on it.
    Again, thanks for helping us moms and in my case, grandmothers understand these little people are just humans and as imperfect as all of us.

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