Creative Child

Top 5 Behaviors That Cause Parents to Lose Their Cool: #5 Back Talk

(and How to Fix Them)
by Rebecca Eanes


All feelings are acceptable, but not all behaviors, so let your child know that you hear her and understand she is upset but that she needs to find another way to express it. You might say, "It's not OK to speak to me like that. I understand you're feeling upset, but speak in a way that doesn't attack me. If you can't do that right now, take a break and come back when you're ready to."

Don't blow it up or show strong reaction. Over time, with proper teaching and understanding, she'll learn how to identify those feelings and express them appropriately.

Remember the 2 keys in handling back talk:

1. Listen to what is behind the words to what is really motivating this child so you can take the personalization out of it so that it doesn't trigger feelings of anger and disrespect.

2. Empathizing, which shows the child that you listen and care about what he feels and wants (a behavior you'll want him to pick up), while holding your limit will dissipate the power struggle.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

While it is critical to support your child through a tantrum, it's important not to change your position if that is what triggered the outpouring of emotion. Giving in to her desires will teach the child that your limits are negotiable. Hold the limit while showing empathy for your child's feelings.

Concerning older children whose prefrontal cortices are developed (though not fully mature, this happens around age 4), it is still important to empathize while holding your limit as this sends the message "I hear you, and you matter." The simple act of not giving in to the demands prompting the tantrum will soon teach the child that behavior won't work to get what he wants.

If a school aged child tantrums in a way that is aggressive " hitting, kicking, or throwing things " this is a clue that the child needs emotions coaching, not punishment. During the tantrum, ensure everyone's safety. That may mean putting distance between the aggressive child and other family members.

You might say, "I see you are very angry. I won't let you hit. Take some time to calm down in your cool down zone."

Once the storm has passed, address the aggressive behaviors. Explain that his feelings are acceptable but his actions are not. Teach him how to manage his frustration and anger with techniques such as deep breathing, counting, going for a walk, or clapping to release energy. Punishing children for tantrums won't help them learn how to manage them. Until we give children better tools to deal with tough emotions, we can't expect them to do better.

For more on dealing with tantrums, check out these articles from Positive Parents: Toddlers and Beyond!

Here are the other posts in the "Top 5 Behaviors That Cause Parents to Lose Their Cool" Series: 

#1 Aggression

#2 Whining

#3 Not Listening

#4 Back Talk

Rebecca Eanes is the bestselling author of multiple books including Positive Parenting: An Essential Guide, The Positive Parenting Workbook, and The Gift of a Happy Mother. She is the grateful mom of two boys. 


2 of 2

You might also like.

Want more? Follow us.

Join our newsletter and get the latest updates!
Hit "Like" to see Creative Child on Facebook