What should I do when my child talks back?

Q: Lately my 7-year-old child has started talking back and not following directions, even from his favorite soccer coach. What can I do?

A: A. This age is an important point in a child's development -- it's when kids become more aware of the world outside themselves and their family (and the fact that it's not always a perfect place). So it's normal for a kid this age to ask a lot of questions or even call out adults on contradictions between what they say and what they do. Although this seems like back talk, chances are your son doesn't mean it that way. He wants to understand things, especially when they don't measure up to his newfound sense of right and wrong. And since he's young he finds it hard to keep quiet just because that's the acceptable way to behave. Of course if at any point he's blatantly disrespectful, discipline him and let him know that it's not acceptable (the soccer coach probably won't stand for it either). The next time you're having a relaxed evening at home, talk to your son. Acknowledge that he's not a little boy any more, but a person who's ready to learn about ideas, values, and adult behavior. Discuss the things he may be questioning or taking issue with, like school, soccer, or family rules. At the same time, make it clear that part of becoming more grown up is knowing when and how to speak out and when to keep quiet.

Copyright © 2002. Updated 2009

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