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How do I get my 12-year-old to stop talking back?
One of the most common battles we can face in tween-to-teen parenting is the battle of the mouth.
Maybe you noticed the signs and anticipated its arrival. Or maybe you were left speechless by what your child just said. I want to assure you that there is hope to stop the backtalk, attitude, and sass you’re experiencing from your tween!
As I’ve delved into God’s Word on how to navigate this topic with my own children, I’ve discovered that He has a lot to say about the power of our words. But the one that struck me the most was Luke 6:45:
A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.
So what causes talking back? As much as we want to address the behavior of “talking back” in our child, we must address the heart.
Yes, heart-based parenting in all areas can be challenging and time-consuming. But Mom, I truly believe that it produces fruit that exceeds our wildest expectations! After all, heart-based parenting is exactly what our Heavenly Father does with us. 🙂
Today I want to give you 5 Tips to End the Back Talk, Attitude, and Sass from your Tween Child
1. Decide Your Non-Negotiables
For a few years, I was very unintentional about my parenting. I didn’t pay attention to anything ahead of time. What is an appropriate punishment for talking back? I didn’t know. I only dealt with situations as they arose without considering what challenges may be appropriate for their age or stage. I didn’t make an effort to proactively prepare a plan to handle it. It simply wasn’t on my radar. If you are there, I am not shaming you friend, I totally understand.
The problem was I was left feeling helpless. I had no plan and a total lack of confidence in my parenting.
- I wasn’t sure what we would or wouldn’t allow.
- I didn’t know why we made that choice.
- I definitely didn’t think of what the consequences would be if they didn’t obey.
Well, I discovered that God had a better way than what I was doing on my own (surprising, right?! LOL). He is always intentional with His children, and His goal is always to capture our hearts. When we considered how to apply some intentionality to our parenting, it became clear that we needed to determine our non-negotiables.
How to handle back talk and disrespect: Non-negotiables can help you in all areas of parenting, especially when it comes to disrespect.
Pray about it, talk about it with your spouse if you are married, and then write them down.
2. What causes kids to talk back? Discuss it With Your Child
It’s time to sit down and have a conversation with your child. Take a moment to pray about the timing and consider their mood and outside factors, especially if you have an emotional tween.
Before you begin, consider these two scenarios:
- #1 You haven’t explained that back talk is not allowed in your home. Perhaps you have overlooked it or there is a situation with a sarcastic “joke” gone awry. Whatever the case may be, it is important to be transparent with them.
- #2 They know that back talk, attitude, and sass are not allowed, but they have been “acting up.” It’s important to revisit the rules with them.
Either way, it is important to communicate to them that you made a mistake and acknowledge that you did not handle this aspect of parenting the way you believe God wants you to. It is crucial to explain that God deeply cares about the words we speak and how we treat one another.
Share with them that this form of disrespect will no longer be tolerated in your home. Why? Because you love them and value your relationship with them. And you also care about their relationship with God. God’s desire is for us to show respect in both our words and actions. (Yes, share your heart with them even if they say they don’t care what you or God think)
Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. 1 Timothy 4:12
Let them know that you have their back. You want to do everything you can to work with them through times when they feel frustrated or angry. They will actually accomplish “being heard” more clearly when they work through it with you instead of lashing out.
3. Talk About the Consequences of back talk, attitude, and sass
In our house, we often talked about “good consequences and bad consequences”. Even at age 3.
I wanted them to understand that our actions have outcomes. We are responsible for what we do – not what we can’t control (meaning what others do or say to us). Even in situations we can’t control, we still have the power to make good choices. When we make God-honoring choices there will always be “good consequences” in our relationship with the Lord (Which is the most important goal!). There will often be “good consequences” in our relationships with others too.
Whatever way you handle consequences in your home, make sure to get to the why behind it.
Lovingly share God’s word with them as you work through it – even when they seem less than interested! Behavior control is only temporary; parenting the heart is eternal.
When it comes to back talk, share clearly what the consequence will be. Let them know that there will also be grace (we’ll talk about that next 🙂 ). But they must understand that there will also be clear-cut consequences for talking back and it will not be tolerated.
Note: Make sure the consequence is age-appropriate AND personality-appropriate – that’s a whole other post but it’s important to note!
4. Give Grace and Praise
Now that you have worked on a plan and discussed it with your child, it is time to put it into action! Make sure to let them know that forming good habits takes time and that you understand this.
In our house, we offer the “try again” from toddler on up. Explain that the first _______ times/days they resort to talking back, you will ask if they would like to try again. If they say yes, and rephrase in a respectful way they will not receive the consequence. If they refuse, the consequence is given immediately. The hard part? Be consistent in this and don’t waiver.
When you notice them rephrasing on their own or even catching themselves and “trying again” praise them and praise them a lot! Tell them what a great job they are doing, brag about them in front of your spouse, or write them an encouraging note!
5. Pray Together
I always recommend praying with them at the end of the talk when addressing these heartfelt issues with our kids. If they are willing and even pray themselves, that’s great! If they are resistant, it’s still important to pray. Keep the prayer short and sincere. Remember, they will be listening, even if they say they’re not 🙂
Continue in prayer for them asking that their hearts be softened and convicted of their sins. Pray that they would develop a genuine desire to please God out of love and respect for their relationship with Him and with you, rather than simply checking off a “must do” behavioral check box. √
Yes, the younger this begins the easier it will be, but moms of older children don’t lose heart! They may think you’ve fallen off your rocker at first, but keep being diligent and don’t give up! I have seen this work with very stubborn-hearted teens who have no interest in what God has to say about anything!
Why? Were they supermoms?
They were faithful in prayer and consistent in actions. They were broken-hearted Moms, desperate for God’s grace and intervention in their parenting. Moms who knew that when they were weak He is strong. They were determined to pursue their child’s heart like the Lord does ours.
And You Can Too!
Now does this mean that the above is a foolproof way to never deal with backtalk or disrespect in your parenting? No. As a matter of fact, one of mine had media taken away because of an outburst as I wrote this. But is that the “norm” in our home? By God’s grace, no it’s not.
Mom, If you are fighting this battle I know you need prayer! Drop a request in the comments. I would love to pray for you!
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Joining you in the in-between,
O Lord, You have pleaded the case for my soul;
You have redeemed my life. Lamentations 3:58