Friday, August 8, 2008

Back Talk!

Back talk. Talking back. Getting smart. Smart mouthing. Contradicting. Mouthing off. Answering back. Giving lip.

It really doesn't matter what you call it. All moms know what it is... and all moms (I suspect)have a distaste for it. But I, being but one mom of sound mind and body (mostly), believe I have had a brain hurricane (really big brainstorm) this afternoon regarding this problem!

Let me start by explaining. With my oldest child quickly approaching the milestone of his thirteenth birthday I have run head-first into this brick wall repeatedly. Whether it should be attributed to newly awakened hormones, temporary childhood insanity, or the idea that my son believes I have done an excellent job with his home education, I cannot say. What I can say is that the dear boy has happened upon a tendency to think he knows just a wee bit more than I do in several areas and sometimes unwisely chooses to vocalize this belief.

This, coupled with the fact that he occasionally feels he should point out areas where I have been "unfair" (code-word for not allowing his will to prevail), has created quite the dilemma for me.

I wish it were as easy as saying, "Never back-talk me. Never! End of discussion." But, truly, it isn't so simple.

I hold to the idea that children need to learn to properly and respectfully articulate dissenting opinions. I believe it is an invaluable skill that must be first nurtured at home. But, for the love of sanity, NOT every time I issue any sort of directive!

I also hold strongly to my commitment to listen to what my children want or need to say to me. I want them completely settled in the knowledge that I (and their father) will hear them out. But again, appropriate lines MUST be drawn!

As a result of my mindset on these issues I have had the unfortunate experience of being sucked into long and exhausting debates over issues that should have been settled with a simple "No, you may not," or "Yes, I still want you to do that."

So... how do you handle these situations? How do you respect your child's need to further explain a situation you may not fully understand and allow him or her to point out factors you may not have considered? And how do you teach when to, and when not to, employ these techniques of respectful rebuttal? Those have been my ongoing questions.

And, alas, I have stumbled upon at least one answer to these problems quite accidentally. No doubt it was Our Father who placed this little rock of revelation directly in my path where I'd be sure to trip over it. :-)

This morning I took a half-hour to myself to read the second chapter of a little gem of a book called "Any Child Can Write," by Harvey S. Wiener. I had had this book on my wish list for quite some time as it was highly recommended by someone whose opinion I value. Finally I purchased it. So far it has lived up to my expectations.

In the second chapter the author explains many practical, easy, and fun ideas for getting young children writing and reading painlessly. After reading it I left a message on the chalkboard for my six-year-old to decipher. On Fridays she is my "dinner helper" and she is always excited about it. I wrote, "Today Butterfly is my dinner helper! Yay! for Butterfly! Yay! for me!" (For those of you who don't already know, I use fictitious names for my children in this blog.)

She sounded out the words with enthusiasm because she recognized her name and knew it was a mystical message just for her! But I digress...

As I showered later, I thought about all of the author's suggestions and my mind began churning fueled by thoughts of writing practice that wouldn't even seem like "school work" to my children. Then I thought about my oldest. How could I tailor this to fit him? What could he write? About what does he have plenty to say?

And then it hit me! As memories of journaling about my own mother's "unfairness" came rushing out of the shower head, I had an epiphany. T-Rex (my oldest's blogname) could write about all of my unfairness! In those moments when I feel any further discussion on his part is bordering on disrespectful, redundant, or unnecessary I will instruct him to write down every point that he feels warrants my attention and to say no more about it verbally. He will be motivated to write (most likely quite a bit) because of his desire to be heard out.

The next day I will instruct him to read what he has written and decide to 1) throw the whole thing away, or keep it for his own private journal, because he no longer feels he should press the issue, 2) cross out all the points he feels are disrespectful or no longer of concern and present a revised version or 3) give it to me "as is" with the understanding that any perceived disrespect will be dealt with.

This kills so many birds with one stone it should be illegal! He will have to organize his thoughts into sensible sentences and (dare I say) whole paragraphs. He will have an appropriate outlet for his angry feelings. And, he will have time to calm down and reflect. Lastly, he can re-read his own view point and take back anything he may have regretted saying, had he said it.


I'm in Homeschool Mom heaven!

Well... now I've got to go re-wet my hair so I can blow dry it. I put it off to type this little article.

Bye for now...

Oh, yeah... and that's my $0.02!!!


lindylou said...

Thanks for sharing your day! Thank you for being up front and normal!!!!! Yeah! There are other mom's out there that are dealing head on with the same stuff! I thank God we have connected.. I like you children's names...I think I will do the same...give my children blog daughter...teddy bear my middle son, Great Knight, my oldest....middle son may not like teddy bear...but he is so cuddley.

Linea Jones said...


You hit this dead on! And to think earlier I had to say a prayer for patience because the "back talk" that I was getting around here made me think that I was in the wrong home! Truly I was beginning to believe that my kids were from another planet. God answered my prayers through you and your blog! AWESOME! :-)

Renae said...

That is a good idea! Thanks for sharing it.

We have tried using an appeal process, but it doesn't always work. (as in, rarely works) :P

JuletteMillien said...

Just Brilliant! I love it when a consequence is a teaching tool AND a way to discourage the offending behavior. Couldn't be better.

Thank you for this! Will DM you on twitter, would love to know which curriculum, if any you use.

Keep having those hurricane storms!

Melody Campbell, The Small Business Guru said...


I LOVE this idea! I read your post and immediatly called my son from his room. He's moderatly excited about the idea. We'll approach it again when he's got something to say that he's passionate about.

The idea was certainly inspired. I've thought about the same thing in regards to allowing my children to present their case, but not be disrespectful. Sometimes my oldest is relentless in attempting to persuade me to see his point of view. I want him to understand the balance between respect and persistance especially as it relates to God ordained authority.

Your idea is a perfect place to start in allowing him to learn a respectful manner for presenting his ideas.

I'm glad you shared.

Willie Crawford said...

You make being a parent too complicated for me. I'm glad my two daughters are in their mid-20's and do know more than I do :)