Is your child rude or lippy? Do they talk back to you? Have you ever thought, “I would never talk to my parents the way my kids talk to me”? What’s going on?
Speaking rudely to a parent in the old days was considered a sign of disrespect, and you were punished for it. Historically, parenting was characterized by respect flowing only upward. Even the name “back talk” implies it’s wrong to reply. Instead: I talk – you listen and take it.
Since the spread of democratization, the millenial era children are born into a world that embraces the tenant of “respect and dignity for all.” Today’s children have come to understand that regardless of gender, race, religion or age, people have the right to be treated with respect.
In my experience, children who talk rudely to their parents are children who are spoken rudely to by their parents. It’s retaliatory in nature and says, “If you are rude to me, I will be rude to you.” Tit for tat.
It’s very difficult for parents to learn ways to be firm in their discipline (establishing and enforcing appropriate limits and boundaries, etc.) without degrading or demeaning their child. In fact, it’s so commonplace to talk down or talk rudely to our children we don’t even notice it anymore!
What to do instead?
1) Watch your own tone, language and keep your own words sparse and positive.
2) Visit this site or my books to get assistance in applying non-punitive discipline tactics.
3) Our words become weapons in times of conflict. If things start getting harsh, simply state, “I want to talk about this in a respectful manner and that seems to be difficult at the moment. Let’s take a break and come back to this when we can approach it more respectfully.”
4) If they flip you some attitude, you can acknowledge their feelings with active listening, but there is no need to comment or punish their rudeness:
Child: “Why do we have to go? You always ruin my fun….. Jerk.”
Parent: “You want me to know you’re angry at me. I am sorry if I come across like a party-wrecker. Can we talk later about how to make sure you are able to find more of the fun you’re looking for?”
5) Discuss at a family meeting how the overall tone of communicating in the family seems to be slipping into disrespect and brainstorm together ways to improve the situation for all. It’s important that children have a response for when parents are being disrespectful and not just address the children’s rudeness.
Our family has a code. We say “Level 3” or “take it up a level,” a term coined from my children’s involvement in the Me to We movement and striving for higher ideals. Some families have a signal like pulling their ear lobe when they notice tone.
The important part is the process of discussing and co-create what your family would like to do. Ask your family, “What kind of a family do we want to be? Because we get to decide for ourselves. Do we like living with this amount of rudeness to one another?” What can we do together to improve matters?”
When respect is restored, the back talk will cease.