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Sick of Your Kid’s Backtalk? Here’s How to Stop It

by James Lehman, MSW
Sick of Your Kid’s Backtalk? Here’s How to Stop It

As a parent, sometimes it seems like your day is filled with an endless stream of backtalk from your kids—you hear it when you ask them to do chores, when you tell them it’s time to stop watching TV, and when you lay down rules they don’t like. It’s one of the most frustrating and exhausting things that we deal with when we raise our kids.

“Your job as a parent is not to get your child to accept the rationality of your decisions. You just need them to follow the rules.”

Backtalk comes from a sense of powerlessness and frustration. People don’t like to feel powerless, and that includes children. So when kids are told “no” they feel like something’s been taken from them. They often feel compelled to fill that empty space with backtalk. I want to make the distinction here between backtalk and verbal abuse, because many times people confuse these two very different things. If your child has started saying hurtful or harmful things, the line between backtalk and verbal abuse has been crossed. For instance, if a child is cursing you, calling you names or threatening you, that’s verbal abuse. If your child is saying, “This isn’t fair, you don’t understand, you don’t love me,” that’s backtalk.

Verbal abuse is a very negative behavior and has to be dealt with aggressively and up front. It’s not that backtalk is harmless, but it’s certainly not as hurtful and hostile and attacking as verbal abuse is. For parents who are dealing with verbal abuse in their home right now, rest assured that we’ll be addressing this topic in an upcoming article.

Related: Does your child yell, call you names or swear at you?

Backtalk itself can take several forms. One is the kid who can’t keep quiet, no matter what you say: he or she has got to have the last word. And then there’s the child who wants you to understand their point after you’ve already said “no.” It’s easy for kids to get into the mindset of, “If I could just explain it better, you’d understand my situation.” So you’ll get kids who present their problem or request repeatedly in the hopes that their parents will give in and respond to it. If their parents don’t give them the answer they want, those kids will then try to re-explain, as if the parent doesn’t understand. Often, as they launch into their explanation for the third or fourth time, the child and the parent will both get more frustrated until it ends up in an argument or a shouting match.

Don’t Respond to Backtalk: You’ve already set the limit
Why do parents react to backtalk after they’ve already won the argument? I think parents often see it as their job to respond to their children: to teach, train and set limits on them. And backtalk is an invitation to do just that. Just as the child re-explains things to the parent if they’re told “no,” the parent “talks back” and re-explains things to their child. So the parent’s mindset seems to be, “If you really understood what I was saying, you wouldn’t talk back to me—you’d accept my answer.” Let me be clear here: That’s not a rational mindset. It leads parents into attending and prolonging arguments in which they don’t need to engage. Parents sometimes see backtalk as a challenge to their authority, but as long as you accomplish your objective, the fact is that your authority is fully intact.

Here’s an example:

Your child: “Can I stay out until 10 tonight?”
You: “No, because you have to get up early tomorrow for soccer practice.”
Your child: “Who cares? I don’t need that much sleep.”

You should stop right there. Any conversation you engage in after that is meant to convince your child that you have sound judgment. Know this: that’s the wrong objective because it addresses a completely different issue—whether or not you made a good decision. So once you give a reasonable explanation for the rule you’ve stated, your job is done. You can repeat it again if need be. You’ve already won the fight. But when you try to convince your child that you’re right and they continue to challenge you through backtalk, you’re just going to get more frustrated. Your job as a parent is not to get your child to accept the reasonableness and rationality of your decisions. You just need them to follow the rules. Look at it this way: when a cop stops you for speeding, he doesn’t care if you think that 35 miles an hour is too slow. He just tells you what the law is. If you argue with him, he repeats what the law is. If you don’t accept it, he hands you your ticket and walks away. If you become verbally abusive, he arrests you. Try to think of yourself as the cop here—you’re the parent making the rules, and your child needs to accept them or pay the consequences.

Related: How to disconnect from your child’s backtalk

Shutting Down Backtalk: The Plan
In order to put a stop to backtalk, there are several things you have to do. First of all, when things are good, sit down with your child and lay down some ground rules. Discussions about these rules are critical to good communication and to cooperation down the road. I guarantee that you’ll feel better as a parent if you set up rules and follow them with your children. Your goal then becomes following the ground rules instead of trying to achieve your child’s acceptance. The first rule is, “I’ll explain something once and I’m not going to talk more after that. If you try to argue or debate, I’m going to walk away. If you follow me or if you continue there will be consequences.” You set limits on backtalk and you don’t give it power.

Another option is to set up a certain time of day in which your kid can talk back to you. You can say to them, “From 7-7:10 p.m., you can ask me to re-explain all my decisions. Save it for then. If you need to, write it down in a journal. Then at 7 o’clock, we’ll sit down and I’ll explain to you why you can’t date a 22 year old or how come you got grounded for smoking. But at 7:15, our discussion is done. If you try to keep it going there will be consequences.” That way, if you feel like you want to give your child an outlet to air his or her grievances, there’s a way to do it without getting bogged down in constant arguing.

Remember, there are two kinds of days that a kid has: there are good days and then there are days when things don’t go their way. Don’t try to fight the tide of disappointment that kids experience. They will use backtalk to get their way, but as a parent, you have to accept the fact that they will not always be happy with your decisions. Your job is to set the rules and enforce them because those roles are for your kid’s development and safety. Whether they like those rules or not, they have to learn to live with them.


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James Lehman, MSW was a renowned child behavioral therapist who worked with struggling teens and children for three decades. He created the Total Transformation Program to help people parent more effectively. James' foremost goal was to help kids and to "empower parents."

READER'S COMMENTS

Great Article. My biggest problem was reexplaining to my son and trying to get his approval.

Comment By : robinlat

I have 9 year old daughter who is getting worse with her ODD behavior. I am doing TOtal Transformation and had seen some progress but today she went totally the opposite direction and seems to actually be laughing at my discomfort when she acts like she can do anything she wants to do because I can't physically stop her. She is horrible and breaking my heart. My husband is gone much of the time and is not available to help and I know that is part of the problem but he won't change jobs in the near future due to financial reasons so I just have to deal with this alone. We have no family or really close friends nearby as this behavior has alienated others as well.

Comment By : Distressed

You are not alone. We deal with similar behavior from our son. He has ADD and medication helped out immensely. Without it, we could never have implemented the strategies necessary to improve the behavior in the first place. To be clear, the meds were necessary only to get the focus, they were not, and will never be, a cure-all. The shared choices described in the article below work the best for us. He is less defiant when he "thinks" he had input into the plan, including the consequences of failing to abide by it. Good Luck! http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/oppositional-defiant-disorder/DS00630/DSECTION=treatments%2Dand%2Ddrugs

Comment By : Dave

I like this article, especially when it says that we don't have to wait for the kids to LIKE our decision. We (my husband and myself) often get roped into discussions all the time, and I think behind our getting roped in is the desire WE have for them to come to a conclusion that, yes, Mom and Dad made sense and I like what they came up with (not going to happen). The ONLY thing not addressed here in this article is that we say "no" too quickly sometimes, when the kids have indeed come up with a better rationale that we, because we really don't give the issue full consideration, haven't thought of. I think both the kids AND we would be far better off if we said, at their initial request, "Let me think about that and I'll give you an answer by -----; what's your best case for doing ----?". That way, the kids get to state their case without emotion (because they haven't been told "no" yet) and we get to weigh in their reasoning without going back on our original decision (which we do sometimes, and ends up making us look weak or indecisive).

Comment By : kc

I have tried this methodology and it works. The hardest part is retraining us "the parents". Give it a good honest try and I bet it will work for you too!

Comment By : PJD

I am a step Mother of a 14 year old girl with ADHD and ODD, also, because of her age, there is a reluctance on the doctor's part to diagnose borderline personality. I find your newsletters a great source of inspiration. Thankyou. There is a little girl in there!! Learning to control adult responses is also difficult, when our girl wants something badly enough she will lie in wait for an opportunity to push buttons! She knows I will get distracted at some point in the day, I have learned to recognize the approach and, more often than not remain resolute.

Comment By : Stepmomster

Excellent article. I spent much of my time trying to explain to my son why or why not I made a certain decision...a waste of time. He wouldn't even listen to me unless I said whatever he wanted to hear. But we are so used to repeat the same pattern that it is difficult to apply your advise.

Comment By : Susana

Distressed, I feel your pain. I am a divorced mother with my second son having ODD with other issues. He embarasses me all the time with his disrespect and verbal abuse. It breaks my heart and sometimes I just want to hide in my room and cry. What did I do to deserve this? Their father is not much help as all he says is, "He doesn't do that at my house". Maybe there needs to be an article in the future about mothers only, about how children push so far with them versus their fathers or other father figures. I'm trying really hard not to give my son extra attention for his ODD behaviors, but then I question if that's the right thing or not. This article is one small step, I think, in a much bigger journey.

Comment By : Indianamomof4

I have a 19 year old daughter, that returned from college, with poor grades and as a result, we have directed her to the local junior college. She's not employed and has been seeking employment, at a slow pace. She is not willing to accept our few curfew rules and since she's had her independence, finds us completely unreasonable. She has moved out and sleeping on the floor of a friend's apartment and has no job or money.She had crossed the line into verbal abuse, by being insulting and hurtful. Where's the nice girl we raised ?? Our 16 year old son, using his control, will not speak. He refused to join us for dinner with his 88 & 90 year old grandparents. He does not have his license and each time we try to move forward, he mouths off. He gets short tempered and is disrespectful. When I try to talk about an issue, he doesn't look at me, or respond. Yikes, who says summer is supposed to be fun ?

Comment By : trayford

I liked the other post that suggested not answering immediately, but rather offering your child an opportunity to present their argument in a respectful, well thought out way, and then making a decision. Combine that with the article's advice to offer a specific time to have that discussion, and not allowing it to drag on and on, makes the most sense to me. It's a happy medium to just saying 'no' outright without really thinking it through and to allowing the onslaught of repeated requests. I like the article's example of the traffic cop, which is one I use often with my kids in many forms, but I also look at the way we communicate and problem solve as compared to an employer/employee relationship. A good employer will listen to a well thought out and respectful challenge to a policy or decision, and a good employee will present their difference of opinion privately, at an agreed upon time, and with solid reasons to back up their position. Sometimes the employer will see the merit in their arguments and change their mind, sometimes they won't, but the good employee will accept their employer's final decision without further challenge, whether they agree or not. This principle came be used in many situations, like in school with a teacher or a professor. I do want my kids to challenge authority but not disrespect it. There is a fine line there. Thank you for this article, it was helpful and gave me some motivation to be more consistent and firm when my kids become disrespectful and combative in their efforts to convince me they are right.

Comment By : Wendy

I go through this with my 8 year old constantly. My stock response is "You asked, I answered and explained. End of discussion". I know I'm tired of say it but apparently he's not tired of hearing it yet.

Comment By : Jane

A good article and another reminder that we know with our ODD kid that to buy into any argument is an act in futility as it pushes every button he has in regards to opposition. When he was little arguing with him led to tantrums and trying to make his teachers understand that concept was difficult. One 4th grade teacher devised an excellent alternative to 1-2-3 Magic counting by simply picking up his daily points sheet and taking off marks. She said she got instantaneous response from him every time. He just shut up and did as he was asked. When I asked him about his response, he replied "I don't want to lose points". My argument with teachers was that he needed a visual or verbal cue like counting 1-2-3 Magic style to stop his behaviors. He didn't recognize adult responses to his arguments as a cue to stop, therefore he gets in more trouble. He is turning 13 in September, and is improving with age. We have been using 1-2-3 Magic and time-outs since he was 4 years old. This article is another reminder to me to cut the verbals!

Comment By : khar59

Another old idea that's new again! My parents, grandparents and all the adults in my childhood world handled backtalk exactly as recommended in this article. I am sometimes amazed that we have 'forgotten' that we are the adults now, and that it's OK to use the same methods that seemed to work for many generations. I often hear from my counterparts that "kids have changed so much". Well, maybe so, but I really think that adults' treatment of children has changed, and that our children are merely responding to our tendencies to give in, to never ever do anything to "lower the child's self esteem" (even when the behavior is shameful!) When I was little, I was sure that my parents must hate me when they refused to let me argue, or backtalk, or do it my way. As I grew up, and had children and now grandchildren of my own, I came to realize that Mom and Dad were really smart, and loved me enough to care about my behavior (in the home and in the world) and to teach me that as the adults.....they had the last word!!!

Comment By : Granmama

Excellent article. After long procrastination, I'm committed to implementing Total Transformation in my home.

Comment By : Lucky Lee

I like this article. We have used this information and incorporated our own styleinto it. We have 4 children ages 10, 10, 8 and 4. With the exception of the 4 yr old we allow the children to approach us with a request and stating their case BEFORE we make the decision. Once the decision is made the "hearing" is over. We still get some back talk but it ends quickly once we tell them they "should have stated their case more clearly". The children end up thinking about what they REALLY want versus just anything to request because it takes more time and effort. The 4 yr old is learning this technique and is even trying it out on his own. By the way, we are not legal people, but the kids feel more "grown up" with this style.

Comment By : TXRN1966

My parents/grandparents had a subtly different approach to back-talking children - first was the 'glare' and the accompanying DEAFENING silence and, if that didn't suffice - back talk was treated with a swift hand to the BACK side. However - I feel corporal punishment has a VERY limited place in raising my children so I prefer to be more literal. This approach DOES work - absolutely refusing to get in to the explanation game with a child over the rules you set is key. Far too many parents treat 8 year old children as if they were little adults. Emotionally - children are not able to reason until far later in life and to expect them too leads to nothing short of disappointment. Be firm and reasonable in all things and your children will follow your lead.

Comment By : DaddyBeenThere

Especially to: Distressed I am a divorced mother of a 10 yr old daughter who has ODD AND is bi-polar. What a depressing situation to handle alone! I have been struggling with this since she was 3 years old, and finally have found a medicine to handle most of the bi-polar symptoms, but the ODD is raging!!!! God bless all of you sharing this dilemma.

Comment By : clm

This is a huge problem with my 12 year old son who has ADD. He'll definitely make a good lawyer some day because he refuses to stop arguing with me until he's satisfied either with the answer or that he has worn me out. I am sometimes quick to say "no" which frustrates him. I agree that giving them a chance to explain is a good idea. My biggest issue is that, if I say no, he follows me and continues arguing. Sometimes I re-engage (bad!) and sometimes it turns into a yelling match. How do you end it effectively if he does this and what is a proper consequence if he continues arguing? (I also like James' advice of setting ground rules when it's calm). Thanks.

Comment By : jaynie

This is a huge problem with my 12 year old son who has ADD. He'll definitely make a good lawyer some day because he refuses to stop arguing with me until he's satisfied either with the answer or that he has worn me out. I am sometimes quick to say "no" which frustrates him. I agree that giving them a chance to explain is a good idea. My biggest issue is that, if I say no, he follows me and continues arguing. Sometimes I re-engage (bad!) and sometimes it turns into a yelling match. How do you end it effectively if he does this and what is a proper consequence if he continues arguing? (I also like James' advice of setting ground rules when it's calm). Thanks.

Comment By : jaynie

My 12 year old daughter likes to think she is smarter than me so she pushes and pushes until I blow up and end up sending her to her room. I knew then that I was wrong to get into arguments with her "after" I gave her my decision, but this article helps me to KNOW it is wrong and to now handle the backtalk correctly. No more arguing, no more blowing up! I'm going to stay calm (oh, Lord!) and end the conversation at MY last word. Great Article!

Comment By : Learningtobestronger

I really think that talking with your children when both you and they are calm and setting the rules is a great idea. I used it with my children, grandchildren, and now my great-grandchildren. I have some very respectful, and fun to be around kids today as a result.

Comment By : El KAY

First of all, thank you James for another excellent article. The issues you address always hit home. Second, thank you to the parents who post comments about their own situations, it helps me to realize I am not alone as a parent and there are LOTS of other parents dealing with difficult issues with their children. My son has been diagnosed with ADHD, ODD, Bi-polar, Anxiety, Depression and pschitophrenia. He's currently on more medication than his grandmother!! So thank you parents for sharing your concerns, it's nice to know where all in this together, and with these wonderful articles from James, we'll eventually get through it all.

Comment By : Jen

I am the grandma of my 12 year old granddaughter. I lost my daughter to complications from diabetes, and as a result, I am now raising my 12 yr old grand daughter. I am also in a wheelchair. She has ALWAY been such a little sweetheart UNTIL she turned about 10 yrs old, and then I saw a totally different child. She is ALWAYS arguing with me, and this article has proven that it is ME that need a readjustment in how I am raising her. I am going to use this method from THIS moment on, and I WILL let you know what my results are.

Comment By : mconway15

This is the biggest problem I have with my 15 year old daughter. To the point that she can bring me to tears because she just won't back off or stop. The backtalk is the main reason I tried total transformation and the solution is so simple. Cheri

Comment By : Cheri

* Dear Distressed: It certainly is frustrating when your child's inappropriate behaviors get worse, especially when you've seen some recent improvement. As uncomfortable as it is, it's actually a good sign that your daughter has turned up the intensity somewhat. It shows that she has noticed you are doing something different. As you respond to your daughter in more calm, effective ways, she is going to wonder what happened to the "old mom" who used to give in to her tactics. By laughing at your discomfort, she is trying to get those old, ineffective responses she used to get from you. She wants to upset you in order to feel that she is in control. I know it's hard work, but you have to keep using your program tools - state your expectations for her behavior calmly and clearly, then walk away. Hang in there--things will improve if you continue to stand firm.

Comment By : Megan Devine, Parental Support Line Advisor

Now to put what I have just learned into action.

Comment By : Toni

I wonder if anyone here has ever given thought to the fact that alot of times, a child acts out as do teens, because their brain has not fully developed their frontal lobe until their early 20's? As a child, I was diagnosed with ODD and several other problems. My parents were constantly seeking advise to change my behavior, but would reject any advise on how to relate better to me. I am now a parent and I think that alot of what people are diagnosing as disorders are really a parents inability to truly connect with their child. I have 2 step kids that live here 13 and 12...as well as a 4yr old, 2yr old, and one on the way. Parents forget that their children have emotions and feelings that they are not yet capable of fully controling. My parents tried all of these things to help me, and all it did was cement in my mind that they didnt understand me, wouldnt listen to me, and that they never would. And just so you know, it is still the same way. Sure, we get along, but those old feelings are still there. My mother judges everything I do from how I dress to how we parent. She is never satisfied, though she may seem to be to others. Children are people, with individual personalities, likes, dislikes and temperments. Im not saying allow your children to do anything, and I think that Dr Lehman has some good points. For some families, these ideas may work. However, what about what we as parents can do to identify and relate better to where our kids are coming from. Otherwise, even as our children age, they may always feel not good enough or like they will never be the kid you wanted. You may wonder where your precious baby has gone. However, what you really have is a young person who is trying to find alot in their life. Where do they fit in, who are their real friends, do they love a boy or girl in their class, who will they be when they grow up...these are all stresses and pressures that as you age, you seem to forget all about. As parents you may not think these things are important. Maybe your child is just as disappointed in their life as you are, but with unapproachable parents bent on "straightening the kid out" who do they look to for guidance? NOT YOU. I still do not look to my parents for guidance on anything. They still shove their opinions and beliefs down my throat, and criticize everything I do. So, before your child hates you in a way that doesnt end, perhaps you should ask them what they dont like about you. What is it that YOU do that makes them so angry. Maybe then you can work together on solutions. Or at least they will know that you care enough to try and change what you can about yourself (within reason) and will see that you are working with them not on them. A child is sort of like a broken car. You cant just read a book and fix a car. You must first learn everything you can about that car and how it works. Then you can begin to try to find problems and work to fix them. In our house, we have rules and limits on behavior. We dont argue much and usually dont get dragged into long drawn out arguements or fights. We used to though. Especially with my step kids. I refused to accept poor behavior and really cracked down on what was acceptible. Guess where that got me? Into family counseling with my stepdaughter. She thought that I hated her, and that she would rather run away than live with me. Not us, me. So we have had alot of work to do, both of us. We talked about what we disliked about each other and what we were willing to do to correct it or at least try to fix it. We are now pretty close. We understand each other better, and both explain where we are coming from. She is 12. If we can do this, anyone can. Dont forget that you are not the only one with feelings in your house. You dont like it when they roll their eyes, and they dont like it when you always snap or nag them. Perhaps there is a solution that is deeper. Dr.Lehmans ideas work well when you realize that his ideas are aimed at correcting YOUR behavior and responses, not your childs. If you arent sure what that means, Ill tell you. YOU are the one with issues. THEY are children and inherently difficult, but it is YOU that encourages blow ups and huge fights, not your kids. Everyone's thing I read says my kid this, my kid that. She is bad, he is mean. None of that is what Dr Lehman or any other doctor would say. They would say to correct YOUR parenting. Perhaps we should more closely examine ourselves before we blame it all on our children, who we raised.

Comment By : hannah

We also ask our son to present his rationale upon making a request especially if he thinks we will be resistent. This gives him the opportunity to think thru his request and us the opportunity to consider what might not have occurred to us. Afterwards we make the decision. Our son knows that it does no good to argue with us.

Comment By : Ruth

your put your feet under my table for meals, I am the final authority. I told them repeatedly that I trusted them implicitly that they would always make the right and responsible decision for themselves whenever they were away from home. There were a couple of times that I told them that if they didn't like the rules in our home that they were free to look for another place to live -in fact, i would help them. Maybe there was another mother or father that they would rather live with. Today they are both grown with their own children - we are all very close (all best friends). It's a beautiful relationship with them all. Let your children know that you "trust" them to make the right decisions for themselves. It's amazing how even, given the opportunity, even a 3 or 4 year old will make the "right" decisions when they "know" that you trust them.

Comment By : sophie

KC - I love your method of involving the kids in the decision making process without undermining the authority of the parents. I think I'l try to give this a try myself. Thanks!

Comment By : michellej

I have a 13 year old that has ADD and ODD as well everything with him takes extra effort even when trying the different techniques that you suggest he is stil using up a lot of my energy, do you thinmk I may need to try a different kind of medication for him which for now is medidate and stratera, there are times when I just want to send him some were else to live and just move on with my life, he is so draing and I am so tired,do not even feel like trying with him any more, I'm just out of sorts with him.

Comment By : Lovingme41

These reader comments make me feel less alone as a single mom raising 2 boys. The older one (13)has ADHD, cannot sit still, feels as if he is the victim in every scenario, has to have the last word and just physically and mentally exhausts me. God bless all of you who are out there trying to teach children to be thankful for what they have, respectful of their parents and compassionate human beings.

Comment By : Tired Mom

Dear Distressed: This may not be what you want to hear. But, the situation you describe could be me and my daughter (now 21). I came to realize no matter how much I wanted a good relationship during her at-home years, that may not happen. Instead of killing myself working toward that, I determined to be the person I wanted to be...kind, loving, caring yet no one to be manipulated by anyone, even her. The "walk-away" approach is my favorite. Of course, this is only after the rules are clear. But, I think you'll be most at peace if you do NOT let her behavior change you. Hopefully you will have more success at a nice relationship than I did. As it is now, she and I are close, but she's not ready to threat me kindly all the time...usually only when she wants something. One bright spot I did see from way back is she is very defensive on my behalf. "Nobody messes with my mommy," is something I've heard her say many times. Too bad she doesn't apply that to herself!!!

Comment By : Mrs. S.

i was glad to read this. the insights and reassuring were most welcome! i came to the point when my son was 4 where i realized that my little genius is always jockeying for his way and it seemingly never ends... so i started cutting him off at the beginning of the backtalk and saying "you asked, i answered." and then he stops. he forgets sometimes, but it's a simple statement that allows me not to argue and reminds him not to persist because he's gotten the only answer he's getting... of course, i came to these beautiful 4 words by shortening having had repeated myself too many times and realizing that those were the main 4 words that are worth repeating--whenever the need arises!

Comment By : Lesley in Seattle

note to distressed: when my son was acting out and i'd gotten to the end of my rope, i called my husband and work and told him to fix it! your husband can fix this one too, and here's how. have him schedule 2 phone calls a day with your daughter to: tell her he loves her, ask how her day's going?, what's going on at school?, i got you a surprise; we're going out to lunch just the two of us when i get back--you pick the place; remember to help your mom around the house... i guarantee you, his attention will change her tune asap! many times when kids act out, they're wanting/longing for attention you can't give'm--they want their other parent. so give her what she wants. surely, your husband can give her 5-6 minutes a day. and when she's not around, make sure he leaves her a message that she can listen to later! my son looks forward to the voice mails, and notes on the whiteboard... good luck! keep your head up!

Comment By : lesley

note to distressed: when my son was acting out and i'd gotten to the end of my rope, i called my husband at work and told him to fix it! your husband can fix this one too, and here's how: have him schedule 2 or 3 phone calls a day with your daughter to: tell her he loves her; say goodnight and sweet dreams; ask how her day's going?; what's going on at school?; i got you a surprise; we're going out to lunch just the two of us when i get back--you pick the place; remember to help your mom around the house; do me a favor and (assign some small chore/task that you [mom] wants done; etc. i guarantee you, his attention will change her tune asap! many times when kids act out, they're wanting/longing for attention you can't give'm--they want their other parent. so give her what she wants. surely, your husband can give her 5-6 minutes a day. and when she's not around to take the call, make sure he leaves her a message that she can listen to later! my son looks forward to the calls, voice mails, and notes on the whiteboard... and even a post card from a short business trip is worth gold. if he's travelling a lot, that could be a great way for them to bond and when they go to lunch, he can share about where he was and how he thought about her while he was there... good luck! keep your head up!

Comment By : lesley

i've distilled down the talk balk response to 4 beautiful words: "you asked, i answered". there is no more discussion once i say that. but i like ruth's approach, so i may incorporate that to give more power to the kids. afterall, we're raising our children to be independent and responsible adults, and they can't very well get that way if they don't think things through! thanks ruth!

Comment By : lesley

I have a thirteen year old that thinks I am the worst person going, she does not even do her chores for me anymore, what happens to them when they turn 13. We can very rarely have a normal conversation, but when she goes to her aunts or other friends they say that she is the most wonderful little girl they have ever had over and she is just so helpful. They also say that she is more resposible and mature then any other kids that they have had over. What can I do to make her the same way at home? I have given her everything and people tell me that I have spoiled her to much, it just that when she was younger she did things to get special gifts, she kept her grades up and cleaned her room and helped around the house it is just that she does not do it now, so I have not bought her anything special lately, because she does not do these things anymore. Please can someone give me some advice I am getting so angry with her lately, and I do not know how much longer that it will work to take her special things away from her like her psp, mp4, telephone etc. or how much longer grounding will work either. I so do not want to fight with her all the time, I would like to have positive time with her again. Thank you

Comment By : tired and angry

For a long time I let my wife deal with the kids while I was either at work or doing ministry. I have always tried to win my childrens behavior problems by being kind and spend time with them doing what they enjoyed. Now I realize that I have caused more harm by not putting my foot down (see Dad, I knew one day it would sink in!)and teaching them to obey. Last night my 9 year old son got upset because I tried to teach him to handle some money he was given in an appropriate way. He pointed to my failures with money and claimed that we were poor and he would have no part of it. Finally he said he was leaving. He packed his backpack, grabbed some chips and juice and said "I'm leaving". It was hard, but I gave him a hug and told him that this would always be his home. He walked out the door and then out to the driveway. Meanwhile I prayed that God would protect him. He did...about 3 minutes later my son walked back in the door and came over and hugged me and apologized. Thanks for everyone sharing and for Empowering Parents. I know I still have a long way to go, but I know I am not the only one.

Comment By : NS

Another single mom here. Yes, please, we are a special case and we need some special help. Write a book for single moms, or at least write an article to encourage us! My two boys never act out with their dad, so he thinks I'm the problem. Still not sure about all these diagnosis, ODD, ADHD, etc. Seems all kids inherit these disorders at the same age and suddenly come down with learning disabilities all at the same age when they didn't have them when they were younger. Could it have anything to do with hormones? Will they get through it if we don't medicate them? Really, I'm not saying anyone is wrong, I'm just wondering. Anyway, excellent article. My 11 year-old son just started middle school and suddenly he thinks I'm not allowed to parent him any longer, he is in charge of everything. We've argued every night for the past 3 weeks, but it is a good reminder to cut off the exchange once the rule is set and the answer is given. I will try to remember this. Its good to hear from you single moms. Reminds me I'm not alone and my child is not the only one that does this!

Comment By : mombee

I have 4 children who are minors living @ home. They seem to do the "chain reaction". The younger ones pick up from the older ones. While i was reading this artticle, i was thinking about how my 9 year old daughter realy gets to me. Just then, she came into my room @ 9:15 pm, (after being sent to bed a number of times) asking me if she can call her friend to tell her good night. After telling her no it was to late and that she needs to be in bed and that i was sure that her mother would not like the idea that shes calling so late, she turned to me and told me that her mom died. I then turned around and said i already said no and thats that now go to bed. But like you said they need to have the last word. She then repeated herself turned around went into her room and slammed the door. My imediate reaction told me to stand-up go into her room and start to argue with her. But i decided not to.I find myself argueing with her everyday. I am so tired of it. She's only 9 acting as if she was 18. Now my 5 year old daughter is trying to test the waters. What can i do to stop it with her before it's too late?

Comment By : exhausted

First - God Bless everyone that does raise children. I found this site because I always search for ideas and to see if I am off base about anything. I am new to the site and already see that we will benefit by my reading it. I would like to agree with many of the comments made by Hannah. I clearly acknowledge the need for meds and therapy – but I also think that as a society, we are far too ready to “take a pill and find the easy way out”. That has been passed on to each generation which seems to only fall deeper into the lie that we don’t control our own lives. My husband and I had no children – by choice. Then my childhood friend died and we became the guardians of our 11 ½ year old God Daughter. My friend was very ill and she had "over nurtured" our God Daughter. At 11 ½ she was emotionally 5 and still wanted carried. She could not even cut her own food with a knife. She just turned 14 yesterday! She has gone from the problem child failing all things and making me want to get in the car and drive away forever to an A/B student that is happy. Every day is still not a rose, but whose life is? How did this happen...we set rules, we stopped candy fests (we also eat 90% organic), and we only allowed one hour of TV a day. When we teach her things, we do it with her...over and over again. When she was bad, we punished. She lost her right to her 13 birthday party because she lied (a big lie on top of a string of lies). For other things her punishment (told to us by a 22 year old) was to sit at the dining room table (after dinner until bed time) where she was allowed to do ONLY her homework. Then she had to sit there doing nothing but thinking about what caused her to be there. The last hour or so of each punishment, she and I would talk about what she was thinking. I then found ways to help her address those thoughts. We roll played, we practiced public speaking, and we did many things that I have read here also. It didn't take too many days of this before she thought twice about her actions. In fact, we have not had to do this since she was 12 ½. But we still have the daily reviews of both happy and sad issues. The biggest problem that I see is that she was allowed to be a lazy, spoiled, demanding brat because that was the easy way for my friend. That laziness seems to be the source of the majority of her issues, ranging from not paying attention to her interacting with others. I have found that may core lessons just didn’t reach her and we spend time introducing these concepts to her. Yes- there have been a few “world wars here” and I am sure that there will be others, but for the most part we have reached a level family life. She does still seem to be very inconsistent with her learning of new things and has stated that if she doesn’t learn it she will not have to be responsible for it (anything). But again, it seems to tracks back to being lazy. She now has friends (she didn’t before and always cried and got “sick”), self respect and accomplishments which have brought her security. We are her guardians, we are her teachers, we are her support and love…BUT I am NOT her best friend!!! My husband and I are both 46 and we were both raised by older parents. Even some extended family thought that we were being too hard on her and they all wanted to continue babying her. The fact of the matter is that if we had done that, we where only taking the easy way out ourselves and NOT doing her any favors!!! I have learned to take “time outs” for myself. And I am going to make myself stick to the hints on back talking here as I realize that I still “engage” with that too much. Good luck to everyone!! And remember, anything worth having is worth working for!!!

Comment By : Auntie Mom

I have a 15 year old son who has had a really bad attitude toward me and to other adults, like teachers etc for a very long time. Like since he was 5 or 6. My question is , is it to late for him if I start these techniques with him now?

Comment By : Concerned mom

* Dear Concerned Mom: Thanks for your question. It’s absolutely not too late to start turning your son’s behavior around. In fact, many of the parents we work with on the Parent Support Line began the Total Transformation program in order to deal with their teen’s inappropriate behaviors. Using the tools in the program, you can help your child learn better skills, and better behavior, before he goes out into the world as a young adult. Your son may have some established habits, but as soon as he sees that those old behaviors aren’t solving his problems any longer, he will need to change. You might be surprised at how quickly you can help create more appropriate behavior. Good luck, and let us know how it goes!

Comment By : Megan Devine, Parental Support Line Advisor

This is absolutely effective in dealing with my son, but after 16 years of dysfunction he is able to suck me right into the arguments before I even realize it. This truly takes a change in parenting. I am the first to admit how hard that it and how many times I take 2 steps backwards for every step forward.

Comment By : deb

Does anyone have any thoughts re: why we're seeing so many behavioral/personality issues with children in this generation? Seems so much more extreme and more frequent as a percent of the population. Is it chemicals in food, water, air? Is it a difference in parenting? Is it TV and Video content? Were there always children with these problems, but we didn't talk about it as much. Just seems like there are more children with very aggressive and troubled personalities...what happened? We are dealing with my grandson who is 6yrs old. He breaks down when he thinks he's losing something, and he does a bit of backtalking. 85-90% of the time he behaves well, but the other 10-15% of the time - whew! - he's a handful. How do you convince the parents that they may have to change, too. I bought them the Total Transformation program, but I can't make them read/watch it - any other grandma's in this situation?

Comment By : Grandma with Concerns

I have a 10 year old who is diagnosed with A.D.H.D , Bipolar , ODD . I am a single mother with 2 children and its taking a toll on me to deal with day to day problems. This is the first time I have read comments from other parents and it is so comforting to know I am not the only one with this problems.Always remember to end every situation with love.

Comment By : Joy

In our house we deal with back talkk, mumbling and muttering all the same. I cup my hand to my ear and say, "What's that? Oh you want to scrub my shower for me? (or the kitchen floor, or sunroom floor, or bathroom floor, or bleach the oil stains off the driveway, or wash the front windows, or whatever needs to be done. Even if the offender doesn't learn early to cut it out, my house is really really clean. The sad part of this though is that they usually give up this self defeating behavior pretty quickly. MoM(Mom of Many)

Comment By : sahmiam

my 12 year old disrespects constantly,backtalks and threatens all the time. He is doing poorly in school and i have done everything in my power to help get my control back. im seriously rattled and am trying to do anything to stop all of this drama. craziness -

Comment By : bouncing of the walls here

Yes, I agree with walking away after giving an answer. However, I have a 15 yr old daughter who is very strong willed a will follow me where I go demanding a different response. The longer I am silent the louder and more disrespectful she becomes. Eentually I end up screaming. I never change my answer. Im just so tired of fighting.

Comment By : tired

Hi Jim, Your meaty article reminded me of the days I taught elementary school. I told the students I would only give directions once. Because I was consistent, they listened well. I raised my boys with repeating the rule and stopped talking if they used backtalk. Their wives have asked them how I disciplined. They both said, "Mom got quiet." They knew if they tried arguing it wouldn't work. Your article is right on, James. Thanks for thinking it through and writing it so clearly. Jean

Comment By : Jean Tracy, MSS

Excellent article. I have a 8 yr old who, when asked to go to bed, time to go to school, etc., throws a temper tantrum. I have blown it for I tend to erupt and yell at him thereby making it worse. I have threatened with taking his video games, to include his PS2 away, but nothing yet. I try to plan special days for him and I to spend the day together fishing, etc., but still no results. Quite frankly, I do not know what to do and it is creating a strain in my marriage. I will, however, follow this article and also try to reprogram myself to not respond when my "hot button" is pushed. Any other advice would be appreciated. thanks

Comment By : etplot

I have a 16 year old daughter that has been increasingly mean over the last few months. Yesterday, I sent her a message to let her know that her dad was coming home (he has been working out of town for about a month now) and she asked me why would she care. She told me that she would rather be with her best friend than be with us. She is spending the week with her friend. She and her dad have not been getting along for awhile now and we dont even know why. She constantly tells me that she doesn't like him but has no explaination why this is. She will be turning 17 in September and is always saying that she only has three months till she is moving out of our house. She told me last night that when she moved out she hoped she never saw me again and to leave her alone. I know she will be wanting me to come pick her up sometime this week and I have to say I am dreading it. She is getting verbally abusive more and more everyday. If I tell her no then she starts again. It doesn't even matter what its about. I think I'm going to be crazy pretty soon. Help!

Comment By : njones

I have a 15yr old daughter who doesnt listen to me.She disrespects me,curses at me,doesnt to chores or helps out,she talks back with verbal language and basically when i tell her not to do something she does it anyway.She sneaks out at night to be with her friends and I can't sleep at night.I have been a single mom for 21yrs.What do I do?

Comment By : worn out mom in ohio

* Dear Worn Out Mom in Ohio: A lot of parents call us on the support line and describe behaviors such as you are describing--situations that have spiraled into a child behaving in numerous defiant ways. James Lehman wrote the Total Transformation program with these kinds of challenging behaviors and attitudes in mind. When there is a lot going on, it can feel overwhelming and paralyzing--not knowing where to start. Fortunately, the Total Transformation program will guide you through the right thing to do first. And it’s paced correctly too. But it’s a process that will take time. Your daughter will need time to learn new skills to manage her behaviors appropriately. The first part of the lessons focus on your interactions with your daughter. This is important and lays the foundation for change. That foundation is a ‘new authority’ in yourself and a new ‘sense of accountability’ in your daughter. After laying this foundation you can begin to use the programs specific tools. There is one behavior that you mentioned that you might have to jump in with both feet right off the bat, however. It sounds like your child might be participating in some unsafe behaviors, such as sneaking out at night. What you might do is tell her that if she does it again, you will have to call the police and get their assistance because it’s unsafe to be out in the middle of the night unsupervised. (Make sure you follow through and call each and every time she sneaks out.) It’s always important, but critically so when a child is particularly defiant, to follow the program as recommended. It takes a little work and practice to create that ‘culture of accountability’ that James talks about. But it can be done. I’ve had the privilege of hearing many parents tell me their success stories. Call the support line. They will help you with specific guidance every step of the way. Keep in touch. We want to help.

Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

My three and a half year old has recently started exhibiting behavior like the one described in the article. He talks back, never listens to what we ask him to do (regardless of what tone you take with him). We tried everything, from talking with him, from time-outs and loss of privileges to reward charts, and nothing seems to work. We try to reinforce good behavior by exaggerated praise and ignore bad behavior when it's not important. But it seems like the more we ignore it the more he thinks it is allowed. How do we deal with it? I know how important it is to cut it where it grows, and would like to learn how to stop it before it gets worse as he grows up. The problem is that he is not old enough to be able to understand/connect some things and words; he lives by the present moment and although he may promise to be good next time, when the next time comes, he does not want to keep his word. This situation is affecting my younger child, who seems to be forced to go through the consequences with his brother. Please help me!

Comment By : Mom of 2 boys

* Dear mom of 2 boys: I think you hit the nail on the head when you say your 3 and a half year old is not able to understand or make connections between actions and consequences. One of the developmental tasks of a 3 to 4 year old is to figure out what works and what doesn't, and how much power they actually have in their world. Neither of these are "bad" things, it is just part of the territory - this is how people learn, and kids learn a lot during these younger years. Remember, kids this young have very few skills for dealing with frustration. Temper tantrums are common during this time (you might read this article on temper tantrums for more support). Taking things away, arguing with him during a tantrum, and trying to talk to him logically about his actions are unlikely to be successful. You might have more success if you tackle one of the troubling behaviors and talk about it with your child - in short, simple language; for example, rather than tell him it isn't nice to call names, say "when I tell you to pick up your toys, it is not okay to hit and call me names." He will not understand abstract concepts like "being nice," or "playing fair." Especially at this age, you are your child's coach - focus on building his skills. Let him know what is not okay, then let him know what IS okay instead. Let him know that when he can show you that he practiced his new skills, he will earn a reward - whether that is time with a favorite toy, or an extra 5 minutes outside. Then, practice together when things are calm; kids this age do especially well with role playing and rehearsal. When he is starting to get upset, you can remind him of what you practiced together, even doing it with him at that time. This is a great way to increase his skills, and it is good for his siblings as well - the younger one will benefit from seeing how mom and dad deal with problems - by working it out together. Good luck, and please keep in touch.

Comment By : Megan Devine, Parental Support Line Advisor

I just need to know how to administer consequences. I need to learn how to stay calm and what appropriate consequences are. I have no idea -- do you have a list of some sort that would assist me in figuring out what to do on my part?

Comment By : Wendy

* Dear Wendy: We appreciate the opportunity to answer this question. We’re asked this question frequently. The answer, however, is not straight forward. While there are ideas for age appropriate consequences listed in the Total Transformation program workbook, we do not recommend ‘just giving a consequence’ to stop problem behaviors. A consequence is only one part of a system of problem solving that changes behavior. In order for any discipline to work well there needs to be a learning component attached to it. The child needs to problem solve with you around what they will do differently the next time this situation occurs. (Use the instructions in Lesson 6 of the Total Transformation program, ‘The Alternative Response Process’, to learn how to have a successful problem solving discussion with your child.) Consequences and punishments are not the same. Punishments are usually given in anger, are frequently harsh, and are used to demand compliance. Consequences are given when disciplining a child for making the wrong choice and are designed to teach a lesson. What we would suggest as your discipline goal is to learn how to help your child problem solve. For more information on problem solving and effective consequences, refer to this article by James Lehman: How to Give Kids Consequences That Work http://www.empoweringparents.com/How-to-Give-Kids-Consequences-That-Work.php Call us on the Support Line for more ideas on applying the program techniques.

Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

Thank you for making the distinction between backtalk and verbal abuse. I've been trying to figure out exactly what backtalk truly consisted of and how to explain it to my son. Now I know, and will have a meeting with my son later today to lay out the new rules.

Comment By : B

My 10 year old doesn't know the meaning of the word be quiet. He always has to have the last word and we are tired of it. My husband doesn't feel that I follow through because I allow him to 'earn' back what is taken away with the desired behavior when displayed. It's gotten to the point that I add on with each additional time he opens his mouth and tries to negotiate. When do you know that you are taking away too much? He's now lost a trip to see his grandparents with his sister and I.

Comment By : mkd

* Dear ‘mkd’: You are right. It is possible to go too far with consequences so that they now look like trying to ‘punish’ a child into making good behavior choices. We generally do not recommend using something as a consequence that the child can not earn back--such as a trip to the grandparents, prom, birthday parties, etc. As James Lehman says, “Don’t put so much weight on making him ‘hurt’ that you’re not thinking about trying to get your child to learn a new behavior.” Something like ‘having the last’ word can by annoying--that’s true, however, James Lehman recommends that you do ignore ‘attitude’. He also teaches to ignore the behavior you want to stop and pay attention to the behavior you want the child to repeat. If parents don’t stop talking to him, it encourages him to keep the argument going, or allows him to try to renegotiate the rules. To stop him from continuing a conversation, allow him to have the last word. Remember, you can call the trained specialists on the Support Line for more ideas on how to use the Total Transformation program.

Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

My 12 yr-old daughter is being malipulated by her fathers side of the family to be disrespectful and disobedient to me. She's been talking back to me and being very defient. Just recently I found out that her father told her to "punch me in the face" if I was to disapilne her in a fashon that she may deem unresonable. And the grandmother told her to call her when she felt I was to hard on her. Father ,grandmother must not understand that by saying that to a child They're kind of trying taking to take my parental rights in my daughters eyes. Right now in my childs train of thought she for example Ihave no right to say that she's not allowed to use the computer because it's her computer. I'm to the point I've been seeking behav. hlth help also i'm seeking sole custody also would like supervised visits or none at all.

Comment By : Fed up

* Dear ‘Fed up’: We’re sorry to hear that your relationship with your child’s father and his family is so strained at the moment. We hope that will not always be the case, that everyone will find a way to work together to raise your child. James Lehman’s Total Transformation program is structured around ‘creating a culture of accountability’ in the home. This means that one of the important lessons to teach our children is that they are personally responsible for their own behavior choices. This important lesson prevents the child from seeing themselves as the victim of circumstances or under the influence of others. Regardless of what your daughter is being told by other family members, or by her friends for that matter, it’s important to hold her accountable for her own behavior choices. Look into purchasing the Total Transformation program and calling the Support Line service. The Support Line can offer encouragement and specific ideas on what techniques from the program will be helpful for you. The Total Transformation program begins by teaching you how to change your relationship with your daughter and how to ‘assume control’ in your home. You will learn to teach her to problem solve instead of act out. And you will learn how you can effectively set limits on her behaviors in your home, such as, “No computer use after 9:00 PM.” After all, it doesn’t matter where the computer came from; you set the behavior rules in your own home that are designed to help your daughter learn good study and sleep habits, among other things. We hope to hear from you. We would be very glad to offer you our support and encouragement.

Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

I have a very strong-willed 17 year old daughter who is an only child. Rather than argue my point for every rule, I state to her "you know the rules, don't do anything you cannot tell me about." Works every time...she made a good decision. I only hope she can continue with her good sense. I am so blessed to have her, but at the same time, this did not come without a lot of consistency on my part...because when you ground them, you also ground yourself.

Comment By : Jeanne

Thank you to everyone for your comments. I feel the pain, passion and hardship. Raising a child is the most amazing challenge I believe there is in this life. I have a son who is so, so strong willed. Just like me. My parents didn't know what to do with me so I learned things on my own. I raised myself. Yes, I do not have any clue how to raise another me, I just know my end product of what I want my son to be, getting him there is set with good intentions but without blueprints. Now I read and re-read Total Transformation to try and give my son a life of knowing how to be a accomplished person. Now my intentions are good, however he is not a willing listener. So, I try to get the Total Transformation memorized so as it is habit. Slowly I see my son regarding my behavior as reality and he is starting to accept it now as a matter of fact. In conclusion the more I become a behavior that is the Total Transformation the more my son accepts it. I love the concept of problem solving and coming back after walking away from a challenging situation. I find my son accepting that we will talk and we will have a plan for next time. He is calm and so am I. It took me eighteen years of my parents training me a certain way, now I have to re-train myself to be the Total Transformation. Hopefully not another eighteen years.

Comment By : MommaBear

my child never listen to anything anybody tells her

Comment By : shanta sturgis

Great article!

Comment By : BerryGirlyMom

My 7 year old daughter is very argumentative. Has the have the last word no matter what. We have told her she would make a great attorney. Unfortunately she is very much like her father, strong willed and strong tempered. She is not afraid to argue back with him and gets him so mad that he will usually break something or punch a hole in the wall. She cries at the drop of a hat if you tell her no and then the tantrum begins. She will scream how she hates us, that it's not fair, and usually stomps off to her room, slamming her door. We have tried everything, spankings, time outs, taking away things, totally clearing out her room...nothing seems to work. We've been going to counseling (I have diagnosed her with ODD. She fits all the criteria.)and she seemed to be making progress. We are down to once a month now. But then Christmas day came. We had a major set back. By the end of the day she was screaming that this was the worst Christmas ever! She got what was top on her list from Santa but it just wasn't good enough. Nothing ever is. She is a wonderful child at school. Has even been nominated to be tested for the gifted and talented program. Straight A student, teachers love her, lots of friends, everybody seems to know her, a very likeable person. But when she walks out those school doors she turns ugly. I have to have the right snack when I pick her up from school and if I don't its a screaming, kicking the dashboard, crying fight all the way home. If little brother gets a treat from daycare for being good and she doesn't have one, she goes crazy. Everything is always somebody else's fault. I am the worst mother ever, according to her. We noticed this behavior when she was 3 and I would pick her up from daycare. She was Jeckyl and Hyde. The teachers did not believe me when I told them how she was when we walked out the doors. I actually dread picking her up from school every day and going home. It's a fight from the minute she wakes up till the time she goes to bed. My husband is a work-a-holic (a part owner in 3 different businesses) and is more so now just so that he doesn't have to deal with her. I am pretty much a single mom and I'm exhausted. I need help!! Please help me have some peace in my home.

Comment By : Q\'s Mom

* Dear ‘Q’s Mom’: The best way to make changes in your home is to do something different as parents. When you change your techniques, when you’re not the same, the kids change in response to that. Sometimes when parents call into the Support Line they ask their question in terms of, “How do I get my child to change?” We answer this question by talking about solutions that involve the parent approaching things differently. We suggest the parent change what they are doing first and explain the child’s behavior should change in response to this. It could be, for example, that to stop your daughter from arguing with you, you simply don’t engage in an argument with her. Just allow her to have ‘the last word’. As James Lehman writes, “You don’t have to attend every argument you’re invited to.” He also wrote an article you may find helpful: Living with Little Lawyers: Don’t Over-negotiate with Your Child. As you mention in your description of your problem, your daughter’s father usually breaks something or punches a hole in the wall when he gets angry at her. Of course, this is not showing her how she should behave when she loses her temper. It may be impossible to expect our kids to control their own tempers if we don’t control ours. Plus it creates an environment that does not feel safe—you never know when your parent will get that angry. It can be one of the reasons she is over-stimulated at home. Here’s where we would recommend that the parent make a change first in order for the child to behave differently. Start by challenging your husband to find a way to control his temper in the home. We appreciate the opportunity to answer your question and hope you will keep in touch with us. We’re here to help.

Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

My 10 year old son is generally not a bad kid but once he gets into I'm-going-to-challenge-you-mode, he'll keep on going until I have raised my voice which even then he'll have the last word. Some of the things that he challenges me on (which really get into my nerves) is that he'll come to me with a problem on his homework and I'll try to help him out. Once I'm done explaining, he'll say "that's not the way it suppose to be. You are wrong". I have let him to take incorrect homework to school so he can see it, but he come back with a blaming voice that "you made me to get this wrong". His teacher likes him and says that behaves all the time and gets along with everybody, but when he comes home, that can be different. I just don't know what to do here.

Comment By : poordad

* To ‘poordad’: It sounds like your son’s behavior can be quite frustrating. When your son is challenging you, it’s most effective if you tell him you are not going to argue with him anymore and walk away. It’s not effective to get into a back-and-forth with your child because it sends him the message that you are an emotional peer. State the limit and walk away. As far as his complaining and blaming, don’t give it a lot of power. When he tells you are wrong, just shrug and say “Okay, maybe you should ask your teacher, then, or call another student in the class” and walk away. When he blames you for his poor grades, say “I’m sorry you are not happy with your grade. It is your responsibility to do the work and get help from the teacher if you need it.” See the theme here? Calm and businesslike is the best approach to take in all of these situations. I am including an article James Lehman wrote about blame. We wish you luck as you continue to work through this. Child Outbursts: Why Kids Blame, Make Excuses and Fight When You Challenge Their Behavior

Comment By : Sara A. Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor

My 15 year OLD.granddaughter is so disrespectful to me. She is to most adult. Live with she and her mom. She is so Argumentative about everuthing. She tells me to just stop.talking to.her. no matter whY I saY or do she has the last.word . I am with her all the time. Her mom works days uand nights. She hardly ever see her dad .I think she hates me. My 21 year old grandDaughter a different mother treats me much the same . What am I to do?

Comment By : bawash

* To ‘bawash’: It sounds like your granddaughter’s behavior is very hurtful to you. While the way she treats you feels disrespectful and hurtful to you, her behavior probably isn’t really about you at all. Kids argue and tell you to stop talking to them when they are angry with a rule or a limit you have set, or when you want them to do something they don’t want to do. We suggest that when you don’t like the way your granddaughter is treating you, you tell her so and walk away. This will show her that she doesn’t have any power over you by treating you this way. Don’t worry about who has the ‘last word’—telling her you don’t like how she is speaking to you and walking away is a method of gaining control in the situation. I have included another article that will be helpful to you. Good luck working through this, and don’t forget to take care of yourself when you’re feeling stressed or blue. Take care. Disrespectful Child Behavior? Don't Take It Personally

Comment By : Sara Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor

I am trying to figure out what I can do fo a punishment after I "won the argument" and yet my 14 year old daughter still doesn't do her chores or homework. We took all rights away from her and wiped her room clean of everything but she still doesn't care. She needs her butt whooped but afraid I will be turned in for abuse. Can anyone suggest any helpfull tips?

Comment By : wits end

* To ‘wits end’: It sounds like you are feeling really frustrated with your daughter. I’m sorry to say that there is no “right” consequence that will make her do what you need her to do, and yet taking away everything as you have is likely to be very ineffective because now she has no motivation. In her mind she is probably thinking, “I’ve got nothing left to lose so why should I?” I also want to emphasize that we do not recommend physical discipline of any form because that also isn’t going to motivate her to do her chores and homework. We recommend that you press the imaginary “Reset” button here. Give her back her privileges, start fresh, and take each day as it comes. Each day once she has done her homework and her chores then she can have her free time on electronics. If she doesn’t complete her homework and chores, she doesn’t get her free time that day and she can try again the next day. This is much more likely to be effective. She might not do it every day but if she doesn’t then you are holding her accountable by restricting her electronics. I think if you try this you’ll feel a lot better. Here is an article for more information consequences: Why Harsh Punishments for Children and Teenagers Don't Work. We wish you luck as you continue to work through this. Let us know how it turns out for you.

Comment By : Sara Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor

my 11yr.son is verbely abusive to me. he doesnt say the terrible things to me directly..but to my husband after i am gone at work, while hes still mad at me..for instance, today, he was mad that i grounded him for lying and back talking me. he told my hub that he wishes i was dead, hopes i get in a car crash and dies, hates me, wishes i wasnt his mom.. this isnt the first time he has said these things about me, and i just dont know what to do anymore. im so fustrated, im to the point where i just wanna give up on him at times!im even looking into bootcamps. ne advice??? please help!

Comment By : Amys lost

* To ‘Amys lost’: Knowing that your son is saying these things about you is incredibly hurtful. James Lehman felt that kids act out like this because they have a problem that they don’t know how to solve effectively. My guess is that he’s angry at you for giving him a consequence for his behavior and this is part of his way of dealing with it. Is it okay? Absolutely not. The best way to handle this is to make sure it doesn’t get any attention. It would be very helpful if dad would set a limit with him and then walk away. For example, he might say, “Don’t talk about your mother that way, it’s not okay” or “I know you’re mad, but I don’t want to hear that kind of talk out of you. I don’t like it.” If dad sits by and listens or responds, there’s a good chance the behavior will continue. Just for everyone’s benefit, this type of behavior crosses a different line when it turns into statements that are along the lines of “I want to kill mom,” that imply a desire or intent to cause physical harm to another person. When angry rants reach that level, it’s a good idea to check in with local supports such as a pediatrician or local crisis helpline to assess and diffuse the situation. Please see our article about bootcamps for our recommendations and thoughts on that topic. I know this is hard stuff. We wish you luck as you continue to work through it.

Comment By : Sara Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor

What do u do when your spouse is completly against what you are trying to do? He gives into the child so that our adhd/high functioning autistic child doesnt cry?

Comment By : frustrated2011

* To ‘frustrated2011’: Feeling like you are not on the same page with your spouse is incredibly frustrating. One thing that can be really helpful is to focus on your common goals—what do you agree on? Once you focus on the common ground between you, it will be easier for the two of you to work together to come up with a way to approach your child’s behavior. It might also be helpful for the two of you to speak with your son’s local treatment professionals to see how they suggest you respond. Ultimately, you can only control yourself and if the two of you continue to disagree, be sure to talk about it in private and try to present a united front to your son as much as possible. Here is an article for more information: Differences in Parenting? How Your Child May Be Using it Against You. We wish you and your family luck as you continue to work through this. Take care.

Comment By : Sara Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor

My biggest problem as a parent is understading what consequences to set. My 11 year old daughter doesn't seem to care about anything when she is told of a consequence for an action. If I tell her to go to her room she says "good..I wanted to go there anyhow!" if I tell her no t.v.."good, I wanted to read anyhow!". There hasn't been a consequence besides unique situations where I've removed her from a special party or event that actually seems to work. I often do give into the argument and realize now that I need to change my reaction in order to stop empowering her, however do not know what to follow up her actions with. Any advice or examples for appropriate consequences would be greatly appreciated!

Comment By : Crazy Ma

* To ‘Crazy Ma’: It certainly can drive a parent crazy when their child acts like they don’t care about the consequences that are set! It sounds like your daughter’s backtalk has been pretty aggravating for you and you have learned that it is most effective to ignore it. It is not necessary to give a consequence for the backtalk itself. We do not typically recommend using special events as consequences. Instead, we find it most effective to focus on electronics or regular every day social privileges and attach them to a task. For example, no computer until she talks respectfully for an hour. Or, the cell phone is off until her room is clean. This is what we call making a consequence task oriented. For more information on effective consequences, please refer to the articles listed below. We wish you luck as you continue to work through this. Take care.
"You're Grounded for Life!" Why Harsh Punishments for Children and Teenagers Don't Work
Kids Who Ignore Consequences: 10 Ways to Make Them Stick

Comment By : Sara Bean. M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor

Some very valid points here - I think the key is to not back kids into a corner. ALWAYS give them a choice of actions and explain the consequences of each action. Win Win situation. Kids are stubborn, so are a lot of us parents. Stop medicating your kids, stop giving their poor behavior a condition label, start parenting.

Comment By : Mum

i have a 10year old girl that is way out of line when me and my very soon to be husband trys to correct her any anyway...she gets mad and bucks up to us when we talk to her it makes her mad and she lets everyone know she is on the war path and the other two kids 11 and 8 see her doin this and the sometimes try but when correct them and all is good with the other two...she rolls her eyes and shakes her head and says ok i get it she does not like being told no i understand that what kid wants to hear no but she does not deal with it well at all it cause problem in the family cause of her drama .... any help on this would be great

Comment By : tasha

* To Tasha: You are right-most kids do not like to be told no, or to have limits set on their behavior. This does not mean that those limits should be ignored. James Lehman talks about how kids “train” their parents through their acting out. By using her anger in this way, she is avoiding having to deal with the consequences of her actions. We recommend doing some problem solving with her when things are calm, and talk about different ways she can handle her frustration when she has limits set on her behavior. Look for specific things she can do instead of going “on the warpath”; for example, she can go to her room to take some deep breaths. Then we recommend sticking with the limits set, and holding your daughter accountable if she does not at least try to calm down and use her other strategy. I’m including a link to an article you might find helpful: "Anger with an Angle": Is Your Child Using Anger to Control You? Good luck to you and your family as you continue to work through this.

Comment By : Rebecca Wolfenden, Parental Support Advisor

Grandparents need to be retrained too. I've set rules for my kids only to have my parents tell me it was too harsh or whatever. They were very good at usurping my authority. They wouuld allow my kids to do things I wouldn't want them to do. It even got to the point where if I said no, my daughter would call my parents so that they could yell at me for not giving her what she wanted.

Comment By : Kevin

Two comments: What really helped me in this article is the distinction between verbal abuse and backtalk. I realize now that much of what I have been calling verbal abuse, mainly because it is delivered in the nastiest tone of voice possible, is really just backtalk. It makes it easier to ignore it knowing that. Sometimes she escalates to verbal abuse, but only if I engage and then WOW! what a shouting match. Total waste of time and counterproductive! The 2nd comment I have is -- if your child is bi-polar or ADD, you could very well be, too. I started on mood stabilizers a couple of years ago and the way I know I have forgotten to take them is when my daughter really starts pushing my buttons. When I remember to take them, I find it is a LOT easier to stay calm and ignore her. If you find you get emotional and have a very hard time dealing with your kid dispassionately, get thee to the doctor! YOUR doctor not hers.

Comment By : tdr

The article mentioned "the child who can't keep quiet, no matter what." However, there was NO information on how to deal w/ this issue. The aricle soley focused on the child who feels the need to explain them selves over & over. Please address that challenge! ~Thank you

Comment By : Momof3

This article skates over the most important point. It is less about the KID'S behavior, than the messages parents are sending. Kids who are backtalking, like the article starts out saying, are acting out because they feel they have no choices. The message they are constantly getting is that they are too stupid, they are incapable of making good decisions, so the parents MUST make them for them. That is not something you want a child to think when they are older and the stakes of their decisions are much higher, and you can't be there to rescue them. Letting kids make choices and even bad ones - and suffer the consequences - when the stakes are low (a lost toy, opportunity, a sick stomach from eating junk instead of dinner) might not be easy but it empowers them to believe you know they are capable and you won't rescue them when they make a bad choice (unless it's something dangerous like running in the street!). Usually it only takes once of making the bad choice to learn the lesson.

Comment By : Top20works

* To 'Momof3': It can be very frustrating to have a child who seems to be unable to stop talking! This is the type of child who needs to constantly have the last word, and wants to continue the conversation endlessly. We advise addressing this type of child much in the same way as a child who needs to explain themselves and their position. You can set the ground rules when things are calm, and do some problem-solving. When debating a rule with your child, once you have stated your position, simply walk away from your child and the arguments. It can feel like you are letting your child “win” sometimes by doing this-know that walking away gives the arguing less power. I’m including links to some articles I think you might find helpful: Sassy Kids: How to Deal with a Mouthy Child & How to Walk Away from a Fight with Your Child: Why It's Harder Than You Think. Good luck to you and your family as you continue to work through this.

Comment By : Rebecca Wolfenden, Parental Support Advisor

Could you shed some light on how to deal with ODD and backtalk in public when my 6 yr old (who has ADHD,Sensory Integration Disfunction and ODD) has a mouthy meltdown and I get the most horrible looks and comments from people as they see and hear him act this way! It's so frustrating and agonizing!

Comment By : sweetipi1285

* To “sweetipi1285”: Thank you for sharing your comment with us. The situation you describe is probably one of the more difficult ones for parents to deal with: having your child act out in public and then having to deal with the looks and comments from other people. Not only is it frustrating, it can also feel quite humiliating. This can influence how we respond to the situation. As James Lehman suggests in the article Are You Afraid of Your Acting Out Child? Part II: 7 Ways to Get Back Parental Authority, try not to focus on the people around you and instead focus on helping your son develop the skills he needs. Of course, in the moment, this may be much easier said than done. It may be helpful to have a plan in place before you go, both for your son and for you if your son begins to act out. We would suggest outlining for your son what behavior is expected of him before you go. For example, instead of saying “I expect you to be good while we are at the store,” you might instead say “I expect you to respond to the first request, accept “no” for an answer and don’t raise your voice or misbehave physically.” Perhaps you can even have a reward for him if he meets those expectations, maybe something like the two of you playing a game together when you get home or him being allowed to watch a favorite TV show later in the day. Next, have a plan in place for how you will respond to him if he acts out, such as leaving the store or walking a few feet away from him until he calms down when he has a meltdown. As James advises in the article Emotional Blackmail: Is Your Child’s Behavior Holding You Hostage? taking small steps to help your son develop the skills to behave appropriately in public is probably going to be the best way to address the issue. Start with where your son is and coach him forward. If he’s not able to do lengthy shopping trips or other public activities, begin with just a quick trip to the drug store or an hour in the park and work up from there. I hope this has been helpful. Good luck to you and your family as you work through this challenge. Take care.

Comment By : D. Rowden, Parental Support Advisor

I do not know what to do with my 14 year old daughter. She argues with me constantly over every word I say. She yells at me, curses at me, mocks me and makes fun of me. I am a single mom with a stressful job and I come home to more stress. We have been to conseling but basiclly, she did not even talk to the conselor, She does well in school, get along with her friends and is respectful to her friends parents. She only unleashes on me. I think she is ADHD, she has always been hyperactive and unfocused. She does not seem to have any empathy or to be able to reason, deduce or problem solve. She also seems to have memory issue which adds to the frustration. Up until the age of eight she was the sweetest, happiest, and pleasant child. All in the same year, a child at school broke my daughters arm, the school did nothing, so I had to change school and then her grandmother died, who lived with us. She has never been the same child after her arm was broken by another child. What can I do?

Comment By : Cait24

* To “Cait24”: Thank you for sharing your story with us. I can hear how upsetting your daughter’s behavior is for you. As a parent of two teens, I can relate to the frustration. It’s not unusual for 14 year olds to have difficulty reasoning through situations. They also don’t tend to be especially empathetic, particularly towards their parents. It’s great she behaves appropriately and respectfully to others outside of the house. This shows what an excellent job you have done in teaching her those skills. I realize that may be small comfort when she’s in the middle of a disrespectful argument with you. What is probably going to be most effective is to hold her accountable when she’s disrespectful to you and also help her develop better problem-solving skills. First, we would suggest not engaging with her when she is being argumentative or disrespectful. You want to use direct statements, such as “It’s not OK to talk to me that way” or “Arguing with me isn’t going to solve your problem” and then walk away. After things have calmed down, you can follow up with a problem-solving conversation and possibly a task-oriented consequence. When you are problem solving, we suggest focusing on what the expectation is (no arguing/no disrespectful behavior) and what she can do differently next time. It’s at the end of this conversation you would give her the task-oriented consequence, maybe something like loss of TV or computer time until she can go for 2 hours without arguing or talking to you disrespectfully. Here are a couple of articles I think may be helpful for you: The Surprising Reason for Bad Child Behavior: "I Can't Solve Problems" and Angel Child or Devil Child? When Kids Save Their Bad Behavior for You. You also mention some of this behavior started when her grandmother passed away. The loss of a grandparent can be a very difficult time for kids. Even if some time has passed since, it may be beneficial to have her talk with a grief counselor. There is a great resource available that may be able to put you into contact with one in your area. The 211 National Helpline is a free referral service that is available across the country. You can access this service by calling 1-800-273-6222 or by logging on to 211.org . Good luck to you and your family as you help your daughter through this challenge. Take care.

Comment By : D. Rowden, Parental Support Advisor

There definitely needs to be an article geared toward mothers only, esp. alone parenting a teenage boy. The only way he listens is if I yell, swear or get physically up in his space, re: if I act like a man. I have worked tirelessly to inform my son on what it REALLY means to be "a man" - it means being a grown-up, an adult, being responsible for yourself and taking responsibility when you make a mistake. But the macho "male privelege" culture he lives in is so pervasive I cannot fight it. He gets it at school and on TV. If I was a man he'd not be treating me like this, cuz he knows I would kick his butt. But because I'm a woman, a mom, I'm seen as weak and he manipulates that. I'm wishing I could get my son back. I lost my daughter to the male dominated culture a year ago. Now I'm losing my son, too.

Comment By : Areyoukidding

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