click here to jump to start of article
  • Torah Reading: Tzav
Join Our Newsletter

Get latest articles and videos with Jewish inspiration and insights​

5 Ways to Get Rid of Back Talk from Kids

5 Ways to Get Rid of Back Talk from Kids

What to do when you child screams, “You’re the worst mother in the world! I hate you!”


“I hate you!”
“You’re the worst mother in the world!”
“You are so mean!”

No parent likes to be on the receiving end of these accusations and insults. However, it does happen to the best of us. How can we stop back talk in its tracks?

1. Understand Underlying Message:

When my children talk back to me, my gut reaction is to respond in kind. It is hard to remember not to take it personally. It helps to remember that children really do speak another language because they don’t have the verbal acuity to express their fears or their feelings.

When children say: “I hate you!” they really mean: “I am so angry!”

When children say: “Why do I have to do everything around here?” they might really mean: “I am too tired to clean up right now.”

When children say: “You love Sara more than me!” they really mean: “I need some attention and reassurance that you love me too.”

Understanding the underlying messages behind a child’s back talk can go a long way in helping us defuse potential conflict, and help us keep calm in the face of disrespect.

2. Know Your Child’s Triggers:

The best way to get rid of “back talk” is to find ways to avoid it altogether. Once kids and parent get angry in can be hard to calm down. It is helpful to know what sets your child off in the first place.

Parents should try to avoid the following thing that could trigger your kids to resort to talking back to you:

  • make promises and then break them.
  • give kids a task that is too difficult or push too hard when they are having a bad day
  • pick at kids for little annoyances
  • ask kids what they want to do and then don't do it
  • take away their reward
  • accuse children of something they didn't do
  • respond in kind when they start an argument

3. Understand Their Personality:

The more we learn about a child’s temperament and personality, the easier it is for us to get along with our child. They will feel understood and will less likely resort to back talk.

For example, children who are slow to warm up to new situations, (the temperamental trait of adaptability) are not being bad because they do not want to kiss Aunt Martha, or because they refuse to get in the pool right away at their very expensive swim lessons. They really need time to get used to new people and new situations. They will use every method at their disposal to gain the very necessary time that they need. That includes talking back. They will refuse to comply until they are ready and feel comfortable. If we give them the time they need to adjust and acclimate we can avoid the power struggle and the back talk that ensues altogether.

4. Feelings First, Discipline Second:

When children talk back, it is often because they are angry and feel misunderstood (see #1 above). It is always best to validate their feelings before we discipline. This is a simple way to diffuse the tension.

Child: “You are so mean! You always make me clean my room! I hate you!”

This response creates more tension and encourages more back talk: “How dare you say they to me! You are so fresh!”

Instead neutralize the anger by reflecting their feelings: “You seem really angry and upset! Cleaning your room is the last thing you want to do!”

However, some parents feel that they can empathize with their child if they are scared, disappointed or hurt but have a tough time when their child is angry and talks back. They feel hurt and mad. Even if parents are able to remain calm, parents are still hesitant to use empathy because they feel they are letting their children off the hook. They would rather admonish their child and push them to be more compliant and respectful.

Parents can rest easy. When parents listen and empathize it does not mean that they are condoning negative behavior. They are not letting their kids get away with murder. Delivering empathy is the secret to stopping back talk and ultimately teaching children respectful behavior.

5. Now for the discipline:

Although we now understand that back talk is just a way that children express their negative feelings and emotions, we cannot allow them to talk to us in that way. We need to teach them better ways to manage their anger and frustration. We must not skip this step, however this step does not need to be done right away. We can wait a few hours or even until the next day when both you and your child are calm to have this conversation.

Parents want to keep this part positive and too the point, it is not necessary to lecture them about their bad behavior. It can sound like this:

  1. “I know you were angry before. Next time please say, ‘I am mad at you’, instead of ‘I hate you!’ It sounds more respectful.”

  2. “I understand that you were in a bad mood before. The next time that happens can you try saying, ‘Mom, I am in a bad mood. Can we talk later?’ That would be more respectful.”

Back talk is not pretty, but understanding what your child is really telling you, knowing what triggers your child’s anger, understanding your child’s temperament, validating their feelings and helping them express their anger in a more respectful way, can help.

November 1, 2015

Give Tzedakah! Help create inspiring
articles, videos and blogs featuring timeless Jewish wisdom.
The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 16

(13) Bobby5000, November 5, 2015 12:48 PM


Having raised three teenagers, this is an excellent article. You want to get to the bottom of what is bothering your teen. If Jane hoped to be part of a group and one girl said the other girls say she is a dork and the glasses her mom chose are so weird, and she failed to do a chore at home, the good parent wants to know why.

(12) Dr Billy levin, November 4, 2015 5:18 AM

recognising the cause of cheeky children

Problem children need to be understood and the function of the human brain's reactions is of equal importance. Serious problems need to be diagnosed and treated professionally. Some children have inherited a neurological dysfunction called ADHD. It can cause the child to do, or say terrible things without thinking of the consequences. If severe enough, professional help would be important for both parent and child.

(11) Paul Cruice, November 4, 2015 1:55 AM

What the?

Why do we have to let our children get to the stage where they answer back? Why can't we teach our children from a very early age to obey Mum and Dad? It starts at day one, and if we haven't achieved the desired obedient orientation in our children by 18 months of age, we are already on the back foot.

(10) Anonymous, November 3, 2015 8:53 PM

But what form of punishment do you suggest?

If disrespectful behavior is not so easily solved,
what do you suggest?

Time Out?
Stand i a corner?

Anonymous, November 5, 2015 12:49 PM

Raise The Bar Parenting by Simi Yellen

Dealing with children in this was is what has led to the increased disrespect that we are seeing today. Taking Simi Yellin's "Raise the Bar Parenting" class turned my household around IMMEDIATELY. You wont get anywhere giving your children this kind of authority. Look arond the world today to see where all of this "tolerance' has gotten the Jewish People.

See All Comments

Submit Your Comment:

  • Display my name?

  • Your email address is kept private. Our editor needs it in case we have a question about your comment.

  • * required field 2000
Submit Comment