Yakety-Yak — Don’t Talk Back!

Dear Rhonda and Dr. Cheri,

We have three kids, but my youngest son is the one who constantly talks back to me. 

My husband works late and we usually have dinner before he gets home. I tell our eight-year-old son to stop talking back at the dinner table, or he’s going to have consequences. 

He doesn’t care and talks back, even in public, especially at the grocery store if he doesn’t get what he wants. Telling him to stop only makes him talk louder.

So I started telling him I’m going to tell his dad.

I told myself I would never say that to my kids, because my mom did that and my dad was abusive.

Of course, I’m not abusive, but honestly, telling my dad worked on me.


Mom of an impolite son

Dear Mom,

No one ever said that fear didn’t work as a punishment; however, it’s good to chose not to utilize fear, which may cause a worsened relationship with your child, and may cause trauma. 

When a child “talks back” (as in rebelling and disobeying an authority figure) it’s usually a sign of frustration or feeling hurt.

Before dinner or grocery shopping, you might calmly ask your son why he gets upset and talks back. Give him a time-limited chance to try to express himself.  

Let him know that he may express himself only in a polite manner and you may still disagree with him. He will learn he won’t always get his way, but he’ll be heard.

Tell your son what the “talking back” consequences are before he acts out. Tell him you won’t negotiate or pay attention to him when he doesn’t follow your agreement. Ask him for an agreement and a handshake on it.  

Help your son to feel important and heard by giving him choices during the day.

Tips to help you both, when talking back occurs:

  • Be the example of good composure, no matter how rude or loud he gets
  • Think of choices or ask him for choices, so he feels empowered
  • Praise him when he doesn’t behave rudely throughout dinner or shopping
  • Hold family meetings where issues may be discussed with the whole family in a calm and respectful manner
  • Remind your son that you will always listen to polite disagreements, but you may still disagree, because you are in charge of making him safe and healthy
  • There’s no negotiating once you and your husband have made a decision
  • There will be consequences each and every time someone in the family is discourteous


Rhonda and Dr. Cheri