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Talking Back What is it and How to Deal with It

Talking Back: What is it and How to Deal with It?

Talking back is a familiar term to most of us. It is a seemingly inappropriate way of answering or responding that is often rude and disrespectful. Backtalk is a problem with all age groups. But at the same time, it is a bigger concern for parents to deal with this habit. In the quest to take complete control of one’s life, kids often show their anger and flout their boundaries. 

In any case whatsoever, this issue needs to be addressed at the earliest. Failing which, the child can misunderstand the ways of communication. And develop a habit of responding disrespectfully to others.

Before we delve deeper, let’s understand the common traits that show a child’s tendencies of back talking.

Examples of Talking Back to Parents


Unnecessary arguments with the intention to write off the opinion of others (parents/caregivers) are often a clear sign. Children who indulge in such arguments often end up depicting this kind of behavior.


Any sign of disrespect that comes from the child during a discussion highlights a trigger point. This also means that the child is not approving or accepting much of an adult’s intervention.


Accusing the parent of being responsible for a particular situation/condition with a disrespectful tone also indicates a tendency to backtalk.

Other than these visible signs, other traits like social maladjustment, indulgence in violence, aggression, anxiety or the use of substances, etc. also pinpoint these tendencies.

Example of talking back

In this article, we will take up some effective ways of handling this problem of talking back. Read further to support the development of an emotionally healthy and well-rounded child and get rid of this problem forever.

Let’s begin with the causes of back talking.

What Causes Talking Back?

There can be many hidden causes behind this kind of behavior. Some of these can be due to behavior problems such as:

Lack of emotional regulation-

Children can find it difficult to label emotions. and even more difficult to manage these. In many cases, talking back to parents is a sign that the child is emotionally unstable. Unfortunately, emotional regulation and stress are some of the highly underrated challenges, especially with children. And post the pandemic, this issue is all the more serious. In the past couple of years, 25 to 30 crore Indian students were affected due to the pandemic. And this aggravated the mental health issues along with emotional regulation challenges.   

Seeking attention –

A leading journal aptly highlights the connection between seeking attention and a negative response to authority. Children who seek attention often discard the idea of parental authority. In fact, this kind of behavior is also noticed in kids who behave badly just to get their parent’s attention.

Other than these common reasons, other extrinsic factors can also lead to these tendencies.

Peer Pressure and Other Stress Factors

Talking back to adults is also linked with external stress factors such as school violence, bullying, or peer pressure. There can be a solid reason behind a particular behavior. So as caregivers, we must investigate and understand what’s going on in our child’s life. We already know that academic stress and social stigma attached to performance indicators directly affect our kids. In fact, India saw a massive number of suicide cases due to a fall in social reputation (901) and exam failure (1673) in the year  2021. 

Reasons for suicide

Now that we know what causes talking back, let’s move on and understand how to address this problem:

Effective Strategies to Handle a Kid Who Talk Back:

Notice the Signs/Patterns

A trigger/tantrum often has a set pattern. Some kids experience these while they are hungry or are not able to label their emotions properly. To boost emotional health and get rid of habits like talking back to parents, try to figure out the exact pain areas. It is not very difficult to deal with these problems if you identify these. So make sure you understand the pattern well to learn how to avoid or combat it.

Keep a Check on Content Consumption

Raising kids in this internet age is not an easy task for many of us. Do you know that India reportedly had 500,000 web-addicted tees back in the year 2015?

Post the pandemic this number is seen a bigger growth rate with a higher rate of smartphone penetration by the year 2021 (54% of the population used a smartphone).

smartphone penetration rate in India

It is essential to keep a track of your child’s preferences and selection of content on TV and other web platforms. Our kids are likely to pick up behavior patterns from their favorite characters. So make sure you keep a check on any such possibilities. And ensure that you allow only child-appropriate content for viewing.

Stay Respectful

Parenting can be highly daunting at times. However, this does not give us the license to disrespect others. Kids imitate our behavior. And as role models, we need to know that our behavior is also a reason behind the child talking back to adults. Our selection of words, level of respect for elders in the family, and mutual relationships immensely affect our kids. So make sure you are in the best of your behavior if you wish to create a respectful family environment.

Appropriate Handling

As adults, we also react to our kid’s behavior. But again this needs to be tacked with care. If we indulge in a verbal clash, things will certainly get worse with time. Answering back in a rude tone, labeling the child as a ‘spoiled brat or bad’ can worsen the situation. Stay calm and composed. And never give an impression that you are incapable of dealing with things calmly. Your own actions and selection of words can teach the child how to choose responses over reactions. So make sure you handle these situations appropriately without worsening the same.

Ways to tackle Back Talking

Use Reinforcement Techniques

Reinforcement is one of the tried-and-tested concepts of behaviorism. It is a great tool to shape a child’s behavior. And helps in eliminating negative behavior traits. You can use the techniques of rewarding the child for good behavior. But avoid using punishments for undesirable actions. Simple yet logical reinforcement techniques can help the child to develop the qualities required for good behavior. Incorporate these aspects into your everyday life. And see how these can be of great help to you.

Be Kind

We often wish to explain why is talking back disrespectful to our kids. But at the same time, many of us do not act maturely and detach from the situation. As parents, we need to learn how to be empathetic and kind while dealing with the child. So even if there is problematic behavior, reach out to the child with a helping hand without being judgmental about his/her feelings.

Final Thoughts

Habits like talking back can be an indication of a bigger problem with the child. However, the good news is that it is possible to reshape the child’s behavior with the right strategies and timely intervention. As adults, we must start by noticing problems in our own behavior. Because our kids learn a lot of behavioral traits from the adults around them. So make sure you work on your own behavior traits to set the right example for the child.  

Remember, there is nothing like an appropriate punishment for talking back. Instead, the only way to deal with this problem is to work on it constructively!

Thanks for Reading!

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What does talking back mean?
    Talking back is when the child shows disrespect and depicts undesirable behavior to express his/her anger. It can also be in the form of an argument to have an upper hand in a conversation.
  • What causes talking back?
    There can be various reasons why the child develops this habit. It can be due to anxiety issues, peer pressure, academic stress, or lack of emotional regulation. And also due to fear or negative influences. Children also pick behavior traits and mannerisms from adults. Hence, we must manage our own emotions. And be a good role model for our beloved children at home.
  • Is it disrespectful to TalkBack?
    Backtalk can be extremely disrespectful. In many cases, makes the child cross the boundaries and brings down the entire level of the conversation.
  • What is the appropriate punishment for talking back?
    Punishment is never an advisable strategy to deal with these problems. You can make use of positive reinforcement, like rewarding good behavior and using verbal appreciation. Even non-verbal signs such as nodding, thumbs-up, and facial gestures can work wonders with the child.   
  • What are the reasons behind talking back to adults?
    Children can have different reasons for these tendencies. It can be due to negative influences, emotional disturbances, problems in school or academic pressure, etc.  
  • Cite some examples of talking back to parents
    Some examples are as follows:
    • You are not my master
    • I will do what I want
    • I don’t like being with you
  • Why is talking back disrespectful?
    In most cases this habit means defying authority without any logical reason. It can be disrespectful as the root cause is anger and frustration.


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