- When Your Young Child Talks Back to You
When you are concerned about your child's behavior it is
very important to consider first your child's age or developmental
level. Much trying behavior in young children represents
a normal phase of development and takes care of itself in
time. However, certain developmentally-appropriate behaviors
can get out of hand and turn into behavior problems. A critical
factor is how the important adults in the child's life (parents,
caregivers and teachers) react to the behavior.
Is it really backtalk?
Talking back is a common complaint of families of children
with high maintenance profiles. When we ask parents to
explain and give examples we sometimes find that they
are referring to perfectly normal behavior, such as the
tendency of almost all two-year-olds to respond to every
comment, suggestion, or question, with a resounding "No!"
A patient and tolerant attitude is the best way to deal
with this behavior, which we feel shouldn't really be
considered backtalk. One family we know had a child who
responded "No!" when offered ice cream, a ride
on Daddy's shoulders, and a bedtime story. They quickly
realized he just found it difficult to say "Yes".
So they learn to ask him good-humouredly if that was a
"no" that meant "no" or a "no"
that meant "yes"!
Some Toddlers Are More Negative And Persistent Than Others
Parents of toddlers with especially negative, intense,
inflexible and persistent temperament characteristics
may find their toddlers' "terrible two's and three's"
especially trying, since such children express their negativism
more frequently it seems, and go on doingit longer. Many parents
tell us they find such children
more bothersome or distressing at age three than at age
two, perhaps because parents' expectations change or because
the children are more verbal and seemingly 'should' be
Whatever lies behind the 'terrible three's',
we can only recommend patience and firmness. Serious problems
can begin when parents start to see their very young children
as all-powerful or bad. We understand how parents can
lose their perspectives, or even get worn out, when intense
negativism and inflexibility go on day after day.
If you feel you are not coping well with your hard-to-raise
toddler, do get guidance from someone who understands
both temperament and normal development. It is important
to see a counselor who provides concrete coping strategies,
with not too much emphasis on changing the behavior of
the toddler. Distraction, or re-direction of behavior,
patience, energy and marital support are the most important ingredients.
True backtalk often begins around the age of four or
so. Some children of this age begin to call their mothers
names, sometimes kicking them in the bargain. Now 'normal'
backtalk is turning into a behavior problem and it is
definitely time to set limits.