Dealing with a defiant and rude child who talks back
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Do you remember being reasonably polite to your parents as a child, and more or less obeying their rules? And now, as a parent, does the sound of your own child talking back and refusing to follow your orders send you to a dark place?  

If this sounds a bit like your situation, you’re not alone. Many parents struggle with bad attitudes and defiant manners in their children. 

The conversation usually goes something like this.

You: Can you tidy up your toys before I vacuum?

Child: Ah, I’ll do it after I finish watching this.

You: Could you do it now, please—I have other rooms to do.


You: Hey, let’s watch the attitude! 

At this point, you’re probably getting frustrated that your child won’t accept your perfectly reasonable request. At the same time, you’re likely to be upset that your child is responding to your polite question in a disrespectful tone. 

But if you step back and look at the situation objectively, you can see that the child in the example actually accepted the parent’s request—with the condition that he would do it after the show. Even though it might have come across as defiant that he insisted on his own terms, that was his way of accepting what was asked of him. The point is, he got the message and he said yes. 

Although it would be more convenient for your schedule to do the vacuuming right at that moment, the child’s preference to finish his show is also understandable, as is his irritation at the proposed interruption. As long as his terms of acceptance to the parent’s request is within reasonable boundaries, his negative reaction should not be viewed as targeting you, but just an expression of his own frustration at the moment. 

Of course, you have just as much right to express your own feelings regarding your child’s choice of expression. The most productive response for the parent in the example above would be to say something like, “I get that it’s frustrating to be asked to do something when you’re enjoying your show, but do you think you could say it a little more calmly next time?”

Remember, oppressing your child’s feelings won’t help them learn how to express their emotions properly.

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1. Dealing with a child who is talking back 

If your child tends to talk back in an angry tone, try responding first by praising them for being verbal and expressing their opinions and feelings. This may sound counterintuitive, but encouraging your child to express their thoughts and emotions is important in raising them not to build up resentment or drift away from you as they grow older. 

According to research conducted by the University of Virginia, children who express their thoughts with their parents, even if it’s in the form of talking back, tend to handle peer pressure well. So, there’s a silver lining, in that ultimately, your child’s balk-talking isn’t necessarily a bad thing for their future development. 

Once you’ve let your child have their say, the next step is crucial in helping them work on their attitude. Gently explain that if he or she can lower or soften their tone, no one gets alarmed or perceives their words as an attack. Let them know that raising their voice or using a strong tone can be seen as a sign of aggression, no matter whether they intend to fight with anyone or not.

2. Teaching kids how to handle their emotions

Let’s say your child is throwing a fit in the store because you won’t buy him a toy. 

First things first—you have to leave the store to not disturb others, but once you find a more private space, your child can let out all his negative emotions—let him wail and kick until he calms down a little

Remember to brace yourself—it will be really tough to watch your child exploding with negative emotions, but hold on tight to your cool and don’t let it upset you. 

When your child appears to be regaining control of his emotions, ask if he’s ready to talk. If the screaming starts up again, wait patiently until he calms down. 

If he uses words to express how angry he is, praise him for that and explain that using words is great—and that’s what he should do next time he gets upset.

Through repetition to reinforce the idea, your child will learn that he doesn’t have to throw a fit to express his frustration—and gain more control over his emotions as a result. 

3. Things to avoid when you teach your child how to control their emotions

Teaching your child manners and morality is dependent on their mental development—particularly their level of mental maturity. So it is only natural that your child’s understanding and ability to adapt will improve as they age, according to their mental development.

But how we express our feelings are different from how we mentally process our thoughts. 

In order to teach children better emotional control, you need to let them experience those emotions firsthand and figure out how to control themselves. 

So, don’t force your child to shut down those negative emotions by enticing them with treats or threatening punishments. Instead, let your child release their emotions and calm down at their own pace and in their own way. By doing so, your child learns how to control their own emotions, which will benefit them throughout their life. 

But, it’s hard to watch your child endlessly kicking and wailing.

To set a good example for your child’s emotional development, you have to endure by withholding your own knee-jerk reactions when witnessing your child’s negative emotions. It can be very uncomfortable for some parents to watch their child throwing a fit. But that is one of the unavoidable challenges of teaching your child to develop healthy modes of emotional expression—by letting them experience their emotions and figure out how to navigate them.


When your child talks back in a rude way, your first instinct will likely be to correct them—by shutting them up and pointing out their lack of manners. But repressing your child’s outburst can lead to a build-up of resentment that will make them progressively less communicative with you as they grow. So, when your child talks back defiantly, contain your own emotions and encourage them to express their thoughts and feelings. If your child uses an aggressive tone or offensive words, calmly point out the importance of softening their tone and eliminating aggressive language. If your child has a hard time controlling an outburst, allow them time to let out their emotions until they’re able to calm themselves. Show your child that you’re there to talk once they’re ready. 

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