Healthy Ways to Cope When Kids Talk Back

Healthy Ways to Cope When Kids Talk Back

8 April 2022 • Words by Karla Pretorius 3 mins

If we take a moment to look back at our childhood, we will be able to spot the signs that we, too, talked back to our parents. We always find a clear memory where we could pinpoint how little we knew about life when we said to our parents, “I know.” This is all part of growing up, though – first, we believe our parents are these magical creatures. We then start rebelling against their authority, and when we grow up, we usually treasure their knowledge and expertise again. During the period where our kids talk back, when we know they are just disobeying for the sake of being rebellious or assertive – how do we not lose our cool?

What are some healthy ways to cope when our kids talk back to us?

Appreciate audacity

We want our children to make up their minds when presented with choices. Appreciate their assertiveness and remind yourself that working towards an independent, free thinker is one of the goals of parenting.

Take a long breath

There is a distinct focus on breathwork in mindfulness practices, which teaches us the power of a single breath. If we feel our frustration or anger building, it might be wise to take a physical step back. This is sometimes more powerful than being in the same position as when you became angry. Walk around for a couple of minutes or get your favorite squeeze ball or fidget toy. Slow down your breathing and take a few deep breaths.

When I was younger, and someone asked me to take a deep breath, I would get annoyed but wouldn’t try it. Now, passed the rebellious years, it is my most successful strategy when I feel the urge to react to an irritation quickly. It takes time to practice this, but when you feel that urge to shout, try to jump up, walk around and take five deep breaths. Once your breathing has calmed down, follow the rest of the steps below.

Analyze the intent

Is your child talking back to make a point or create a point? Do they want to get a reaction, in which case I would say increase the five deep breaths to 10? If they don’t want to get a specific response but try to make a point of their needs or opinions, try and hear them out. These moments are the ones that shape our children and us. Do they feel that you value their opinion or give them a chance to explain? I understand that this might be a little more difficult when we get home from a long day of work and running errands. That is why the following strategy is essential!

Take your moments

Parents are just grown-up children. We have to be the voice of reason, the mature ones who know what to say and do most of the time. But when do we get a break? Remind yourself to also give yourself a break – you can at times walk away from a conversation or alteration with your child. You can take a moment for yourself, gather your thoughts and then return with a clear head. You can also focus on affirmations at the end of the day of what you are proud of about yourself. Give yourself credit for not only doing life but helping another living being do life with you. McLennan et al. (2012) indicate that parents receiving respite care or a break from caregiving felt a sense of relief.

It is also important to remember not to take things too personally. Your child is pushing boundaries, and that is just what children do. It might surprise you how easily you can resolve these moments if you implement some of the above strategies. Be sure to remind yourself that “this too shall pass.” 

McLennan JD, Doig J, Rasmussen C, Hutcheon E, Urichuk L. Stress and relief: parents attending a respite program. J Can Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2012 Nov;21(4):261-9. PMID: 23133460; PMCID: PMC3490527.

Karla Pretorius

A registered counselor with a MA in Psychology. Co-founder: AIMS Global & Leadership at: Augmental