3 Expert Tips for Handling Back-Talk From Your Kids

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One of the most frustrating elements of parenting can be dealing with a disrespectful child—especially one who talks back. Family physician Dr. Deborah Gilboa, who specializes in empowering parents with knowledge about child development, explains that although this behavior is developmentally normal and common, there are things you can do at home to get more respectful behavior from your kids.  

"You deserve to be spoken to with respect—and your kids deserve to learn the skill of speaking respectfully. If our kids don't know how or why to be respectful, especially to adults, they're going to have a much harder time succeeding in life. And they won't look for respectful people to include in their life as they get older," Dr. G explains.  

How do we do this?  

As adults, we can do three things at home to get respectful behavior.  

1. Be respectful ourselves.  

"It's the worst thing about being a grown-up, but honestly, we can't get around it. Speak clearly and kindly—or at least not rudely—to our children, our partner, anyone we say we love," Dr G. says.  

"We can't be hypocrites about this, and it's totally possible to be mad without being rude or mean. If we don't figure this part out, our kids will not take in the lessons we're going to teach them." 

2. Make a List.  

Know what is and isn't ok with you. You have to make rules about this that are clear for your kids and everyone around you.  

"If eye rolling isn't acceptable to you, but sarcasm is fine in your home, you have to decide that and communicate it clearly. If your child is not allowed to insult you or call you names then write that down too," Dr. G says.  

"Make a list for yourself—even if you have to watch them be rude for a while to get a full list of what you don't like. Then, tell them the rules and the consequences for being disrespectful," she adds.  

3. Don't be mad, be consistent.  

"They will be rude after you've told them the rules. They will be rude when they're frustrated, embarrassed, upset, tired. Don't be shocked, try not to feel betrayed. Just be clear that it isn't acceptable and enforce the consequences. Every time," Dr. G explains. 

"You can even be kind about it, just firm. It will take them a long time to learn new habits, but it will be worth it. Because when you teach your kids to speak respectfully, they will be treated better and [will become] more successful as adults. And because you deserve it!" she says. And we agree! 

Dr. G also answered other frequently asked questions about parenting emotionally distant teens, allowing screen time for preschoolers and teaching children how to eat healthier.   

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