Talking Back and What to Do About It

 

“Talking back” seems to be something I see getting press in more and more mainstream American parenting articles, with comments something along the lines of, “We expect teenagers to talk back, but we don’t expect six-year-olds to talk back and this is really infiltrating down and down into younger and younger ages.”

I think this is an accurate depiction of what is going on in American society at least.  I am hearing from parents about talking back and what to do about it from about age five or six on up.

So, How Did We Get Here?

In general, I think part of what has gotten us to this point is that authority in general in society has changed, especially since the 1960s.  No longer are there figures of complete authority to obey without question and children see this in society.  I am not saying these changes are bad!  However, they do lead children to “question” authority more than before, and to also lead parents to be fearful of being an authority, because in our generation’s history this has often been linked with abuse of power and unfairness. Parents seem to walk a difficult line these days in regard to their views of authority and what that means in leading their own family.

The other large change has been the seeping of adulthood down into childhood, including the sheer number of choices a child has, the sheer power of decision-making a child has within the family structure and an awareness of the stress and pressures of the adults in the family.  Related to this has been the seeping of the adult world of information down to the child’s level.

Many American families I speak with feel that part of their children’s talking back is related to that child feeling entitled to experiences or things.  If you feel there is a correlation there, I would love to hear from you in the comment box!

For What Ages Is Talking Back the Biggest Problem?

From my mail, I am judging most parents are having difficulty with talking back during the six/seven year change, age eight (the age of boasting and bragging and exaggeration), and the years marketed as the “preteen years” – ages 10-12.  Surprisingly, I don’t get a lot of mail from parents being frustrated with their teenager’s talk.  I am not sure if that is because the talking back has actually died down at that age, or if parents are just used to it or something else.  Again, I would love to hear from you in the comment box!

What Can I Do To Figure Out Where We Are Right Now?

  • Always go back to the basics, especially for those under the age of 12.  Are they overbooked and overscheduled?  Too many choices and just generally holding too many opinions/ too much power?  Are they getting enough sleep, rest, time for unstructured play, eating whole and healthy foods?
  • What are your rules?  What exactly constitutes talking back by your child to you?  Does your child know what talking back really is and when they are doing it?
  • How are you treating them?  What kind of a model are you with them?  If you are constantly sarcastic and snippy with them, then that is their model.  That is exactly what they will parrot back to you.  Are you respectful and polite as well?
  • Are they more connected to their peers than to the family unit?  The privileges of a sixteen or seventeen year old  and the schedule of a sixteen or seventeen year old are not the privileges or schedule a ten year old should be having.  If you need help knowing what is appropriate for a ten year old versus an older child, please leave me a comment and I will be happy to dialogue with you.
  • What is their media intake?  Unfortunately, many of the nicer “family” shows that used to be on television or in the movies are long gone.  Today’s media often portrays a family where the children are snippy to their parents and seem to know much more than their hapless, bumbling parents.  The fathers are typically portrayed as extra bumbling.  Portrayals such as these really have not helped our society as a whole.

So What Can I Do? Continue reading

Freedom Versus Form

This has been a season where the theme of freedom versus form has been coming up repeatedly in my life, and as usual, I took this as a sign that I should write about this subject for my readers.

During one of the first few weeks on her Yahoo Group for homeschool planning called “Sketching It Out” that in homeschooling, Lisa Boisvert Mackenzie wrote something to the effect that we have a freedom so different than what is found in the Waldorf schools in bringing the impulses of Waldorf Education to the home, but then we have to create the form.  I have been mulling this thought around for several weeks now, where it has been germinating in my heart.  I  know from my own experiences in talking to  so many mothers and families that creating the form seems to be the most challenging part for families not just in homeschooling, but in parenting.

A small example in  parenting, for example,  Continue reading

Authority: The Challenge of Our Times

Authority is so necessary for parenting in  today ‘s fast-paced world.  Authority, sharing its root with words such as authentic and author, gives us the number one way to guide our children into peace.

It is not a big house, or a small house.

It is not the amount of money we have or don’t have.

It is not what activities our children are enrolled in or not.
It is how we connect to our children through authority.

Authority is a special way of holding the space for our children in such a way that the child can enter fully and wholly into the world without anxiety, worry or distress.  They do not have to enter into the adult world but can be an innocent in childhood play and the childhood repetition of play, work, being outside, submersed in the rhythm of the year.

The challenge of our times is that so many of us grew up in homes where Continue reading

Boundaries For Gentle Parenting: Why? How?

Often in  the world of gentle discipline we are implored to look at our child’s needs and wants when they are acting in a way that we don’t understand or want. However,  I often think that just attributing a reason “why” a child does something is really not enough or honestly, even always necessary. I have known and worked with a lot of children and their families, and I just don’t know as every childhood action that is trying or challenging  to adults is the result of an unmet need that the parent needs to decipher. Yes, sometimes there are things going on that the child is feeling stressed about and cannot articulate well.  Yes, we live in a fast-paced world and many children have an awful lot to deal with.  Connection and attributing positive intent  to a child’s often immature but developmentally appropriate actions are so important. But some actions are just things that children do for whatever reason, many times without really thinking at all. Continue reading

Parenting Tuesday: Expectations: Friend or Foe?

I was recently looking through Michele Borba’s book, “Parents Do Make A Difference: How To Raise Kids with Solid Character, Strong Minds, and Caring Hearts,” and this sentence jumped out at me:

The kind of messages we send our children is critical.  Expecting little from our kids limits their success, because they lose the incentive to try new possibilities.  Unrealistic expectations can also damage our kids:  “Why didn’t you get all A’s?”  “How did you not make the team?”  “You got a 98 percent – which two did you miss?”  Pushing our kids because we want the best for them may be misinterpreted by them as “You’re not good enough.”  Successful expectations gently stretch our children’s potential to become their best without pushing them to be more than they can be.  And these expectations never destroy children’s feelings of adequacy.”

The author goes on to discuss using the parameters of “developmentally appropriate, realistic, child-oriented, and success-oriented” as barometers for whether an expectation is healthy or not.

I talk a lot about development on this blog, and have included realistic expectations as part of the developmental posts for each age.  You can access many back posts to look at that.  However, here is a quick rule of thumb:  Continue reading

Part Two: Attachment Parenting: What’s Going On?

The first part of this series can be found here, including some really interesting comments regarding attachment parenting and enmeshment, attachment parenting and children learning to have self-reliance:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2013/01/23/attachment-parenting-whats-going-on/

So, on with my list of the ways I feel attachment parenting as sometimes been misconstrued and misunderstood, coming from my experience of being in the attachment community for the last 11 years:

Number Two:  The only way to guide a child is to talk to them, and talk some more, no matter what the child’s age.  I think if we look at the child as moving through the stages of imitation, short explanations, needing a loving authority figure,  going into cause and effect reasoning around the age of twelve and then moving into mentorship, apprenticeship, and such during the teenaged years, a completely verbal approach cannot and should not be the answer for children of all ages.  I have written about the idea of combining thinking, feeling and willing for the guiding of a child many times and in many ways on this blog.

Sometimes I think attached parents use excessive talking to a child to not only communicate and explain, but, (in all honesty!) in hopes that the child will agree with them. This way we can still all be friends!  This can be a very passive way to set a boundary.

Just because you are attached and connected to your children doesn’t mean they are always going to agree with you!

So, I wish the attachment parenting community would Continue reading

Attachment Parenting: What’s Going On?

I wrote about the intersection of attachment parenting and Waldorf education some years ago in a back post, but it has been on my mind again lately…And then, just this week, there was a wonderful thread regarding this topic on Marsha Johnson’s waldorfhomeeducators@yahoogroups.com list.  Lisa Boisvert Mackenzie of Wonder Of Childhood (http://thewonderofchildhood.com/) had some particularly wise and insightful things to say about the journey of the parent  as a part of Waldorf parenting  (which we often see in the work of biography in Waldorf Education, as we, the teacher and the parent, strive to heal and understand ourselves because we are not just teaching academic subjects but teaching how we view the world and who we are!) and how this intersects with attachment parenting.

My husband and I have attachment parented three children ages 11 to 3 as of this writing.  I have been involved and am still involved in attachment parenting at my local community level, and I receive a lot of mail and questions from attached parents all over the world, so I think I am in a unique situation to know what’s going on in the world of attached parents.

So, today I want to write about some of the ways I  personally think attachment parenting has been misunderstood and misconstrued.  Again, this is my opinion, so please take what resonates for you, and leave the rest behind.  There really are no road maps for the attachment parenting of the older child; I believe there is a book out by Isabelle Fox on this subject and I think I read it a long time ago but yet I have little impression of it at this point Therefore, these are just some of my observations from seeing attached children that are now over the age of seven, up through the teenaged years.

The attached mothers I have spoken to who have children over the age of 7 or 8 wouldn’t change the fact that they are attachment parenting but many of them would change HOW they did it.  Most of the things they would change has to do with rhythm, how they communicated with the young child, and boundaries for the entire family.

So, without a road map for the older child, here is my perspective after being in the attachment community for eleven years now:

Number One: Some feel that in order to be an attached parent, the approach must be completely child-centered – ie,  the child sets the rhythm, whatever the child wants to do the parent does their best to make it happen,  anything the child says and does requires the attention of the parent.   Yet, Jean Liedloff herself wrote about the unhappy consequences of being completely child-centered here:  http://www.continuum-concept.org/reading/whosInControl.html

Actually,  I think the attachment literature that has sprung up has done Continue reading