Skip to main content

“That’s not fair!” “You can’t make me!” “You are the MEANEST mom ever!” If this sounds familiar, you are not alone.

Back talking is one of the biggest parenting complaints among parents, and for good reason. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to get your child to listen to you, only for them to respond with back talk. When this happens, you may have a lot of things you want to say. However, it’s important to tread carefully, because you don’t want to say the wrong thing and make things even worse.

With that said, there are a number of reasons why kids talk back, so understanding why is the first key to making progress.

Here are 6 powerful responses when your kids are talking back. Below, I will list six commons ‘talking back’ phrases and what to say back.

1. It’s not fair!

Kids tend to think that fairness means that everyone is treated the same. While it might be idealistic to think that is how things go, at the end of the day fair doesn’t mean the same. To respond, let your child know that you will always treat them fairly, but that sometimes, you will have to treat them differently because no one is the same.

2. Why are you so mean?

When you lay down the law, your kids may feel like you are trying to be mean. Instead of getting defensive, level with them. Express that you understand their frustration, but that you are only doing what you believe is best for them.

3. Everyone else gets to.

Another talkback tactic is to pressure you into giving in. To respond, say, “Sometimes, other parents make different choices. As a family, we live by our own values and that is how I decide what we do.”

4. I don’t have to listen to you.

Kids sometimes will rebut by saying that they don’t have to, and you cannot make them. In response, gently remind them that there is a way to talk to you and that what they are saying is not it. You can offer to provide them with a second chance to take it back. Then say, “I am your parent. Regardless of how you feel about my choices, my choices are the ones you have to follow.”

5. Mumbles.

Kids like to get in the last word. Remind them that they have said their peace, and you have said yours, and gently ask them to stop talking back. If they continue, assert, “If you want to ______ you won’t say another word.”

6. WHY?!

While it might sound tedious, sit down and offer them an explanation of your thought process. You don’t have to lay out a PowerPoint, but explaining why you are doing or saying what you are saying will help them to understand it more. They might not agree, but they will at least hear it.