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I never heard of a kid who didn’t talk back.

Talking back, sassing parents, and name-calling are part of growing up. Children have always done it. Even in the “good old days” when children were more respectful, they did it. The difference was they were punished for it while today most parents ignore words that would have meant a trip to the woodshed.

Most parents want and deserve respect, and think they are entitled to it. But parents may not realize it takes work and time to raise a respectful child. Some parents succeed in teaching their children to be respectful to others like teachers but put up with a lot of lip at home.

Parents also feel their children should be able to express themselves. We don’t really want kids who say, “Yes, ma’am/ No, Sir” automatically but never think for themselves. So we don’t train our children like dogs to sit and stay. We raise our children to think for themselves.

But no parent wants to be sassed, especially in front of others, and every parent wearies of frequent or continuous backtalk.

There is a difference between a child saying heatedly, “I hate you!” and a child saying, “You bitch!” to Mother who has just said, “Turn off the TV.”

Although both statements are theoretically disrespectful, saying you hate your mother in a fit of anger is expressing a feeling. The answer as calmly as possible is, “I’m sorry you feel that way. But the TV stays off.”

Name calling reaches an intolerable level of disrespect and should be handled differently. Express YOUR feelings first. “That word hurts me!”

Then mete out the appropriate punishment: time-out or withholding a privilege like TV. Be sure to tell your child, and enforce it, that every that word is used the child will be punished.

What about less nasty name calling? For some reason all preschoolers quickly pick up on two words to call their parents when they are angry at them even if the words do not apply: FAT and DUMB. These words are used a lot on TV and even very young kids pick up on the fact that the words are insulting.

Parent’s choice here. If the words bother you use the above sanctions. If they don’t bother you ignore them–but still make the kids turn off the TV! Alternatively you can make a joke, “If you think I’m fat you should see how fat the hippopotamus was–the one I took to school when I was your age.” What does this humor do? First it defuses your child’s anger. Second, the next time the child wants to name-call, there may be reconsideration.