In our parents’ generation, a child that “talked back” was “bad”. A child that “talked back” to an adult was not only being disobedient but also disrespectful to his elders. It was a bad, bad thing. So naturally, when Gavin started talking back, it made me concerned that my ordinarily fairly well-behaved boy was becoming very “disobedient”. Yet the more we told him off for talking back, the worse it seemed to get. It would continue to spiral down into a punishment.
Then I read the book “Let’s Talk about Feeling Angry” by Joy Berry.
Now, I’m wondering if our standards for our children too high. Before you accuse me of getting soft on a “disobedient” child, let’s think this one through…
Why does a child “talk back”? Because he’s angry. Does he have a right to get angry? Sure, he does. He may be a child, but he’s a human being, too. Children get angry, too.
How do children deal with anger? Some lash out at other people (biting, hitting, kicking, etc.), some destroy things, some throw tantrums, and some talk back. In some way, a child needs to be able to deal with that anger. What would you prefer your child to do? Personally, I think talking back is probably one of the mildest reactions a child can dish out.
By punishing a child for talking back, we’re really telling him that he’s not allowed to be angry. And if he isn’t allowed to get angry, then the only avenue he’s got to deal with that anger is to bottle it up. Is that really fair?
We get angry all the time. Sometimes, we take it out on the kids, too. If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that it’s true. Haven’t you dealt out a harsher punishment than was necessary because you were angry? I know I have. So if adults get angry and we’re allowed to get angry, shouldn’t kids be allowed to get angry, too?
If you don’t like your child talking back to you then you need to teach him how to deal with his anger in a manner that works for you and your child. Forcing him to accept things he doesn’t like without allowing him to feel angry about it teaches him that he cannot express his feelings. I don’t think that’s healthy.
Here’s another thing to put into perspective…
What do children get angry about? Not being able to have ice cream might be one example. Not being able to go to the park might be another. These might seem like rather small reasons to get upset to an adult, but for a three year old, missing out on ice cream is a big deal, and missing out on a trip to the park is the end of the world.
What are some ways you can teach a child to deal with anger?
“Let’s Talk about Feeling Angry” makes the following suggestions:
- beating up a pillow – or something that cannot be damaged.
- screaming in your room – or somewhere that won’t disturb others.
- talking to the person that made you feel angry.
- talking to someone about feeling angry.