How to deal with Talking Back

Posted by  | Sunday, June 26, 2011  at 10:43 PM  
Have any of the following conversations ever taken place at your house?

Mom: Son, eat your sandwich please.
Son: No, YOU eat your sandwich.

Mom: Son, it's time to pick up our toys and go to bed.
Son: NO!! I'm NOT going to pick up my toys. It's NOT time for bed.

Mom: Son, please don't call your brother names. It's not kind.
Son: No, my BROTHER's not kind. HE's mean. HE's a stinky head.

Some variation of all three have transpired in our home over the past two weeks. My almost 5 year old has recently started talking back, sometimes as many as 10+ times per day. Talking back shows a lack of respect for mom as well as a heart that is hardened to receiving instruction.

My original attack on this back talk was to address it directly. As soon as Sam would talk back, I would get down to his level and say, "Samuel, that is talking back and it is not allowed. You need to respond 'yes, mommy'." He would say "okay, mommy" and we would move on. After repeating this over and over throughout the day I decided that my approach wasn't working.

So I took to the internet. I searched "how to discipline talking back". A lot of the information I found encouraged me to model positive behavior for my child (i.e. not be a back talker myself) and to ignore the behavior. I don't believe Samuel is seeing back talking modeled in our home. And I can't agree that ignoring the problem is the best solution. Back talk is the symptom of a deeper issue and ignoring it doesn't solve the symptom or the underlying sin. It allows the problem to grow and fester.

I sat down and tried to discern what was really going on. I believe talking back is a symptom of the deeper issues of not respecting a parent and having a foolish heart that doesn't receive instruction. Here are some proverbs I pondered:

Proverbs 10:17 - He who heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.

Proverbs 1:8 - Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.

Proverbs 13:1 - A wise son heeds his father’s instruction, but a mocker does not listen to rebuke.

Proverbs 13:13 - He who scorns instruction will pay for it, but he who respects a command is rewarded.

My project for the next day or so is to come up with a new plan of attack on dealing with back talk in our home. I have been praying today for wisdom in how to creatively approach this as well as for tenderness of heart for my son and the power of the Spirit to change his heart.

A mentor friend is coming over tomorrow evening to talk with me about the issue and she's bringing along a book she wants me to read. I'll post about our conversation as well as the book after our conversation tomorrow.

Have you had to deal with back talking in your home? What did you do and what made you decide to do that? What has worked for you and what has not?


SC said...

I am by no means an expert, my oldest child is only five years old. We have never experienced "talking back" in such an extreme manner as the examples you give, but my son has responded before with "oh no, not again" or rolled his eyes or given a loud deliberate sigh when told to do something. I think that his attitude was the same as the child you are describing, my son was just responding more with body language and tone of voice than with "back talk". I taught my son that God says "love is kind, it is not rude". I would tell him "What you are doing (or saying)is rude. You may not do that." and then follow up with whatever means of discipline you use (time-out, spanking, etc.) My son only had to be disciplined a few times for rudeness and it is rarely an issue we have now. I recommend the book "Don't Make Me Count to Three". (Don't let the title throw you off, it's really about first-time obedience and addressing the heart of the child with your discipline.)

Amy said...

Looking forward to hearing what your mentor says!

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