Why Do Kids Talk Back?

Girl standing on chair yelling through a megaphone

It’s enough to make any level-headed parent’s blood boil! “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, and 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 if it’s just your child’s normal progression towards independence?

All children (toddlers to teenagers) seek to exert their independence—it’s what they’re supposed to do. However, to determine if the backtalk you’re experiencing is something that needs 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.

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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.

Now that you know it’s normal, check out the 5 steps to put the brakes on backtalk today!

If the power struggles in your home have gotten out of hand, I’m always here for you.

I’d love for you to join me for a FREE ONLINE CLASS. I’ll teach you how to get your kids to listen—no nagging, yelling, or reminding required!

As always, happy parenting!

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About the Author

Amy McCready
Nationally recognized parenting expert Amy McCready is the Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and the best selling author of The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic - A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World and If I Have to Tell You One More Time…The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids to Listen Without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling. As a “recovering yeller” and a Certified Positive Discipline Instructor, Amy is a champion of positive parenting techniques for happier families and well-behaved kids. Amy is a TODAY Show contributor and has been featured on CBS This Morning, CNN, Fox & Friends, MSNBC, Rachael Ray, Steve Harvey & others. In her most important role, she is the proud mom of two amazing young men.