What should I do when my child talks back?
Lately my 7-year-old child has started talking back and not following directions, even from his favorite soccer coach. What can I do?
Submitted by Parents.com Team

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

Answered by Parents.com Team
Community Answers (7)

If a 7-year old is talking back and not following directions, I imagine this is happening not just with the soccer coach but with the parents too. In which case, I would have to ask if they are true voices of authority or wish-washy. Time out for this age is ineffective. Start removing priveleges and get their attention immediately so they understand firmly that this is intolerable behavior. They need to respond to all authority inside and outside the home whether they agree with those in authority or not.
Submitted by kpeden

This answer assumes that your reference to “talking back” and not following directions is inappropriate and disrespectful behavior. It is important that children know that talking back and not following directions from adults in leadership roles is not acceptable behavior and should have consequences. An explanation of why the behavior is inappropriate should be given and the child needs to apologize to the coach or leader.
Submitted by lalondekathy2

My answer to your question assumes that your reference to “talking back” and not following directions is perceived by you to be inappropriate and disrespectful behavior. In such cases, it is important that children know that talking back and not following directions from adults in leadership roles is not acceptable behavior. If such behavior is observed by the parent, the parent should not allow the child to participate. The first occurrence of such behavior might result in sitting out for 10 minutes with longer durations for subsequent behavior. You should also explain one on one why the behavior is inappropriate and accompany your child while they apologize to the coach or leader. In these situations, children need to learn that members of a team or any group need to follow the rules and respect those in leadership roles. If the behavior becomes frequent, talk with the coach or leader and work out a system of having consequences for inappropriate behavior. Addressing the specific complaint your child had should be done one on one between you and your child. It is important to acknowledge and try to understand the child’s perspective. You would then help them work through any misconceptions or misunderstandings that may have existed. If the coach or leader is flat out wrong or unreasonable, then this should be addressed by advising your child to tell you about the situation so you can help them resolve the problem with the leader. If your child is developing the habit of talking back to the parent and not following directions, discussion of understanding the child’s perspective should occur but, if it persists it is completely appropriate to justify the importance of not demonstrating disrespectful behavior (i.e. talking back) and not following directions by simply stating “because I am your parent and I say so”. It is certainly appropriate to expect an apology from your child and to have consistent consequences of exhibiting disrespectful behavior.
Submitted by lalondekathy2

My answer to your question assumes that your reference to “talking back” and not following directions is perceived by you to be inappropriate and disrespectful behavior. In such cases, it is important that children know that talking back and not following directions from adults in leadership roles is not acceptable behavior. If such behavior is observed by the parent, the parent should not allow the child to participate. The first occurrence of such behavior might result in sitting out for 10 minutes with longer durations for subsequent behavior. You should also explain one on one why the behavior is inappropriate and accompany your child while they apologize to the coach or leader. In these situations, children need to learn that members of a team or any group need to follow the rules and respect those in leadership roles. If the behavior becomes frequent, talk with the coach or leader and work out a system of having consequences for inappropriate behavior. Addressing the specific complaint your child had should be done one on one between you and your child. It is important to acknowledge and try to understand the child’s perspective. You would then help them work through any misconceptions or misunderstandings that may have existed. If the coach or leader is flat out wrong or unreasonable, then this should be addressed by advising your child to tell you about the situation so you can help them resolve the problem with the leader. If your child is developing the habit of talking back to the parent and not following directions, discussion of understanding the child’s perspective should occur but, if it persists it is completely appropriate to justify the importance of not demonstrating disrespectful behavior (i.e. talking back) and not following directions by simply stating “because I am your parent and I say so”. It is certainly appropriate to expect an apology from your child and to have consistent consequences of exhibiting disrespectful behavior.
Submitted by lalondekathy2

My answer to your question assumes that your reference to “talking back” and not following directions is perceived by you to be inappropriate and disrespectful behavior. In such cases, it is important that children know that talking back and not following directions from adults in leadership roles is not acceptable behavior. If such behavior is observed by the parent, the parent should not allow the child to participate. The first occurrence of such behavior might result in sitting out for 10 minutes with longer durations for subsequent behavior. You should also explain one on one why the behavior is inappropriate and accompany your child while they apologize to the coach or leader. In these situations, children need to learn that members of a team or any group need to follow the rules and respect those in leadership roles. If the behavior becomes frequent, talk with the coach or leader and work out a system of having consequences for inappropriate behavior. Addressing the specific complaint your child had should be done one on one between you and your child. It is important to acknowledge and try to understand the child’s perspective. You would then help them work through any misconceptions or misunderstandings that may have existed. If the coach or leader is flat out wrong or unreasonable, then this should be addressed by advising your child to tell you about the situation so you can help them resolve the problem with the leader. If your child is developing the habit of talking back to the parent and not following directions, discussion of understanding the child’s perspective should occur but, if it persists it is completely appropriate to justify the importance of not demonstrating disrespectful behavior (i.e. talking back) and not following directions by simply stating “because I am your parent and I say so”. It is certainly appropriate to expect an apology from your child and to have consistent consequences of exhibiting disrespectful behavior.
Submitted by lalondekathy2

Children imitate what they hear YOU say also. Remember to keep your own language respectful towards others also! Easy to forget there are little ears that are always listening!
Submitted by georgia05