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Why Do Kids Talk Back?

whytalkback_facebookIt’s enough to send any level-headed parent’s blood boiling! “How dare she talk to me that way! Doesn’t she know I spent 15 hours in labor?”

In calmer moments, (deep breath) we can look at backtalk more objectively to understand WHY it happens and what we can do to correct it.

Is backtalk normal?

“Backtalk” is a broad term that refers to disrespectful responses from children. Depending on the age of the child, it can range from a toddler’s defiant “NO”, to rolling the eyes, to a full-blown shouting match, even profanity.

It’s obvious that profanity can’t be tolerated, but what about the more subtle backtalk remarks? How do you know if backtalk is something you have to address or just your child’s normal progression towards independence?

All children (toddlers – teenagers) seek to exert their independence – it’s what they’re supposed to do. However, to determine if it’s something that has to be corrected, apply the “litmus test” question…”Would it be okay for your child to respond in the same way in front of your friends, co-workers or your mother-in-law”?

In most cases, the answer is “no” and that tells us we have to be proactive in correcting the backtalk.

WHY do kids talk back?

Kids talk back for a variety of reasons. They may be testing their own power to see how far they can take it. They may feel disrespected by parents who overprotect or “boss” them around or they may live in a home in which respectful communication isn’t a priority.

In the majority of cases, however, talking back is the child’s way of exerting his power and saying “you’re not the boss of me”.

We’re all hard-wired with a need for positive power – the ability to have some control over our lives. When we over-protect, over-demand, order, correct and direct… we stand in the way of our children achieving independence and personal power.

The only way our kids know how to respond is to fight back. It’s a basic fight or flight response – they can’t easily flee, so they fight back with backtalk, negotiating, arguing, stomping away, eye rolling, etc.

Early next week, I’ll post part 2 of this post and list the 3 things you can do today to minimize backtalk.

Is “BUSY” a 4-letter word?

It is – according to a teacher I know. We were recently discussing how parents today are SO BUSY with work, caring for children, to-do lists, not to mention shuttling back and forth from our kids’ many activities. The “BUSY-NESS” of life often keeps us from focusing on what’s REALLY most important.

My friend, the teacher, tells her students that “BUSY” is a 4-letter word and MAY NOT be used in a sentence. When a student doesn’t complete the homework and says “I was busy” – the teacher asks her to re-phrase the statement without the word “busy”. Eventually, the student says something like, “I didn’t do it because I didn’t make it a priority.”

How often do we let our “busy-ness” get in the way of what is important? For me, it’s exercise. I’m MUCH too busy to exercise regularly. Or, isn’t it really… I don’t make exercise a priority?

In which areas do you let “busy-ness” stand in the way of what is really important? Maybe it’s exercise – maybe it’s spending regular, uninterrupted, one-on-one time with your kids or spouse?

The New Year is a great time for all of us to take a step back and think about what is MOST important. Do our actions support our beliefs? If not – let’s commit to finding just ONE THING on our to-do list that we can blow-off without the world coming to an end. Then, let’s use that time – even if it’s only 10-15 minutes to do something that we believe is TRULY important.

Shift the Power Struggle Paradigm

little girl in a power struggle

The key to avoiding power struggles in the first place is to remember two very simple but important sentences:

We can’t control another person. All we can control is ourselves and the environment.”

On the surface, this seems obvious, but it’s terrifically challenging in practice. Deep down, we really do want to “control” our kids and even our spouse. “If they would just do what I want them to do, things would go so much more smoothly around here!”

But, think about it, we are all hard-wired with a need for free will or personal power. We can’t “make” our kids sleep 10 hours, eat broccoli or study for science. Try as we might – these things are in “their” control, not ours.

We can’t make our spouse turn off lights, wipe out the sink or want to have more sex. These things are in his or her control, not ours. When we try to impose our will on another person – boom – we have a power struggle.

No one wants to be told what to do, when or how to do it. It is a recipe for a battle. The minute we begin ordering, correcting and directing our kids or our spouse, the fight or flight response kicks in. In most cases, they don’t flee – so they fight back. It’s human nature.

To avoid power struggles with the ones we love, we have to get our brain around the idea that we can’t control another person. But the good news is that we can control ourselves – how we respond to whining, back talk, tantrums, not listening, etc. We can decide to participate in the power struggle or disengage.

And, we can control the environment with improved routines, natural and logical consequences and training.

Action Item: I encourage you to look at the power struggles in your relationships and ask yourself…”Am I trying to be in control?” If you frequently have power struggles with those you love, look first at yourself.

I’m not suggesting the power struggle paradigm shift is easy, but it is absolutely necessary to avoid power struggles and encourage cooperation and open communication with the ones you love. Positive Parenting Solutions Online is here to help.

New Years Resolutions

New Years Resolutions. I just hate them. I don’t even make them anymore. I have no plans to go back to the gym after the first of the year because I can’t bear to be the recipient of the stares that come from the “real work out moms.” I am committed to becoming healthier in 2010 – more sleep, drinking more water and less Diet Coke and exercising more than I did in 2009 (that won’t be hard to beat)! :)

As much as I hate “fitness” New Years Resolutions, I am going to encourage each of you to make just one “parenting” resolution this year. There are so many Positive Discipline tools to share, but I’m going to suggest just 3 and I encourage you to pick ONE of them. By committing yourself to any one them, you’ll begin to see a noticeable difference in attention-seeking behaviors like whining, helplessness, clinging, etc. And, you notice a decrease in power-seeking behaviors like tantrums, back talk, “attitude”, etc. So, these are win-win resolutions – you’ll feel better about your parenting efforts and you’ll notice a payoff in your child’s behavior.

Here they are…my top 3 suggestions for Positive Discipline New Years Resolutions:

    *ONE-ON-ONE TIME each day with each child. This is one of the most important things you can do to decrease attention-seeking behaviors and to encourage cooperation. By filling your child’s attention basket each day with POSITIVE attention, you’ll begin to see more positive behavior. This doesn’t have to be a big deal – just commit to spend 10 minutes per day with each child of one-one-one time when your child has your UNDIVIDED attention – preferably doing something he/she likes to do.

    *Commit to using your CALM VOICE! This requires intention and I recommend putting post-it note reminders around the house to keep “calm voice” top of mind. When you focus on using your calm voice – even when you are frustrated or angry – you’ll be amazed at how your kids and your spouse will respond! Kids follow our lead and when we’re calm – they’re calm.

    *Evaluate your ROUTINES. Pick one routine – morning, after school or bedtime and re-tool where necessary. Make sure the “new and improved” routine is clearly communicated and everyone is on board. Be sure to allow plenty of time. For example, to reduce the morning dawdling that starts the day off with a lot of stress, get up 15 minutes earlier to be ready before your kids wake up. It’s worth it for everyone to leave the house without a power struggle.

A new decade means new possibilities for all of us. My kids are 14 and almost 12 and I swear I can’t believe where the time has gone.

Those of you who are in our online parenting classes know that I ask parents to think about how their kids would finish this sentence as they look back on their childhood…”My mother/father always ______________.”

For me, I want my kids to say…”My mom loved her job as ‘our mom’ more than anything the world.” That is the truth and I hope my attitudes and actions reflect that for my family in 2010.

Happy New Year to all of you. Thank you for the time you spend with Positive Parenting Solutions each week. It is a privilege to help any way we can.

Children Whine?

Why do children whine?

children whineWhy do children whine? Because it works! When children whine, parent’s instinctual reaction is to respond to the whining child.

I always tell parents whining is a learned behavior and parents are the teachers. It begins when they are infants. They cry because they’re hungry, tired, or need a diaper change and we respond. As they become more verbal and are able to use their words to communicate many of their wants and needs, we continue to respond to whining. At the point when they are fully capable of communicating with their words – we continue to respond but usually with an irritated tone or a reprimand such as, “please don’t whine”, “use your big girl voice” or “I’m not going to answer you when you whine.” (Guess what – you just did?)

Even though the attention we provide as a result of whining isn’t necessarily positive – they still get a “hit” of attention. What they really want is our positive attention, but in the absence of positive attention, they’ll take the negative attention every time.

To put an end to whining, we have to make sure we’re giving plenty of positive attention when they aren’t asking for it. (Proactively fill their attention basket in positive ways.)

To remove the payoff for negative demands for attention such as whining, don’t respond – just walk away. This works for children ages 1-18! Instead of saying “use your big boy voice” – don’t say a thing! NO WORDS! When you hear the whiny tone, just turn around and calmly walk away. He will get the message that “a whiny voice doesn’t help me get what I want.”

Here’s the deal…children WILL have their needs for attention met – one way or another. If we don’t fill their attention baskets in positive ways – they will use negative attention-seeking behaviors. They know it works and that’s why they continue it!

Disciplining Other People’s Children

disciplining other peoples childrenHave you ever seen children acting up in the grocery store…and not just acting up, but being downright obnoxious? What do you do? It takes every fiber of your being to just walk by when you really want to go over and discipline them. You reason that it will help the child and the parent to learn a lesson in effective discipline strategies.

Is it okay to discipline another person’s child?

As tempting as it may be, it’s not appropriate to discipline another person’s child except in 2 situations.

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