Children “talk back” when they feel some form of injustice has befallen them. This is a form of debate they engage in with the parent or caregiver in hopes to get their way and challenge consequence.
Talking back is an issue that can easily get out of hand. There is a difference between negotiating an alternate consequence and “talking back.” Talking back is defiant and disrespectful. If allowed, it is a tactic children will try to resort to with increasing frequency as they get older.
It is important to let children know who is in charge and that your word is final to avoid this issue. Kids often outlast most adults, which can cause the adult to give in just to end the discussion. This only reinforces their strategy. Give your word, whatever that is, and try not to even engage the debate.
The bottom line is that it ultimately does not matter if they see why you have made the call you did, but they need to honor it. In time and with maturity, hopefully they can learn the "why" behind some decisions. It will be up to you to decide when you can be flexible and when to stand firm.
Reviewed by Eva Benmeleh, March 2020
Some children start talking back even earlier than 4. It is important to be consistent and not engage with them beyond what you have determined to be the last word. Walking away or putting them in timeout can be good ways to communicate this to them.
Talking back with my 4.5 year old has actually gotten worse within the last week. I don’t know if she is just stir crazy and bored from being out of school for the summer but it is hard to deal with. Time outs aren’t working some of the time so I have had to start taking away story time before bed and putting her to be a little earlier.
Being a little stir crazy can certainly increase defiant behaviors. I recommend assessing what I call “creature comforts” when determining the possible cause for the troublesome behavior. I consider creature comforts are hunger, sleep, pain, and boredom. If either of those are out of balance it can make for a grumpy child. Making a change in any of those areas could improve temperament tremendously.
When my girls start misbehaving it is usually because of one of the “creature comforts” but I feel that sometimes they want to eat because they are bored so this can get a little tricky. We are usually on the go quite a bit to get away from the boredom factor but sometimes on a rainy day, which is quite often in South Florida, it is hard to get out.. This is usually when these behaviors are at their worst! I have recently tried to add more arts and craft projects around the house and this has helped kill time when we are stuck at home.
My four year old has really started talking back a lot lately. I try to get the last word in but she likes to respond back and this usually leads to me putting her in her room for a time out.