16 answers

3 Year Old Talking Back

I have a 3 year old that is talking back all the time. If he is told to do something he will say "don't tell me to..." or "I don't have too" I feel that I have tried everything to handle the situation when he talks back. I have put him in time out, tell him that it is unexceptable to talk back, and even have taken toys away. It seems that he is being very bossy to everything someone ask him to do. Does anyone have any ideas of what I should do when he talks back?

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So What Happened?™

Thank you everyone for the great advice. I tried some of the great tips I received this past weekend and saw a big difference. I think changing the way I ask him to do something has really helped.

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I always put my boys in their beds, not just their room, but physically in bed, until they can come out and talk to me appropriately. If they come out and don't say "sorry for..." or if they are still being adamant and inappropriate then they find themselves right back in their bed. If they find something to play with while in bed I take it away until they can come talk to me appropriately. We have a list of "Mom's House Rules" posted in the kitchen and the rule that gets pointed out the most is "If Mom says it, do it!" When they act out I tell them what I expect them to do and if they don't do it immediately I point out the rule and they usually comply. Having it written down some place they can see the rule often helps with compliance (visual aid). If they still don't comply I physically take them to their rooms until they do comply. I've had to carry them a few times kicking and screaming and I've had to lead them by the hand a few other times but they have finally learned not to talk back to me or they're in trouble and have to go to their room. It works for meltdowns, too.

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3 years, 3 minutes in the naughty chair. Hugs and an explanation after the time is up and expect an apology.

Consistency above all things. And tune in to Supernanny on Fridays. It truly is a goldmine of working principles.

In our home, that is disrespect. He knows it gets you going and may be enjoying the reaction. When my kids talk back, they get either a time out (minor talking back) or a spanking (more major backtalk), even my almost 3 year old. It is simply not tolerated. We also teach our children that the Bible says to honor your father and mother, and also to show them respect, I don't know where your beliefs are, but to us, this is breaking one of God's rules, and it deserves discipline of some form.
The key though, is being consistant. He will try to test you, but I promise you, if you let him continue to talk to you this way, it will not be something he can grow out of, and it it will get worse.
Giving him choices are good and can help him be assertive, but there are times (I am sure) that you can't give a choice, such as, hold a hand in a parking lot, don't touch Grandma's breakables, etc. If you do not believe in spanking, I hope I did not offend you, but we use it and it is effective and our kids are NOT hitters...
I hope it gets better!

I always put my boys in their beds, not just their room, but physically in bed, until they can come out and talk to me appropriately. If they come out and don't say "sorry for..." or if they are still being adamant and inappropriate then they find themselves right back in their bed. If they find something to play with while in bed I take it away until they can come talk to me appropriately. We have a list of "Mom's House Rules" posted in the kitchen and the rule that gets pointed out the most is "If Mom says it, do it!" When they act out I tell them what I expect them to do and if they don't do it immediately I point out the rule and they usually comply. Having it written down some place they can see the rule often helps with compliance (visual aid). If they still don't comply I physically take them to their rooms until they do comply. I've had to carry them a few times kicking and screaming and I've had to lead them by the hand a few other times but they have finally learned not to talk back to me or they're in trouble and have to go to their room. It works for meltdowns, too.

"You're not the boss of me!" Try hearing that and keeping a straight face. Well, my son learned that I am the boss of him (he even says I'm the boss of Daddy!) when he spent some time in his room after saying that. Disrespect is stairtime (timeout) and if he doesn't immediately go he's in his room for quite a long time. Sure he rages for a bit but usually gets on his bed and falls asleep (can you say tiredness causes this? Hmmm).
My son's school has a motto - respect is a two-way street. You get what you give. If he disrespects me, he gets no say in what goes on. Your son is testing you, just as many other kids test their parents. It's perfectly normal. It's nothing personal, he's just learned there so many choices in the world that he wants control.

My daughter is 2 1/2 and just as fiesty as your son...don't you just love it (ugh). I'm glad you posted this, so I can get some more ideas too. What I have been doing thus far (by no means perfect) is I pick my battles. I let her win maybe once out of ten times..then she thinks she is getting away with something, but also getting independence. For the times she doesn't win, when she talks back, I do time outs...maybe multiple, depends how long it takes her to listen and not talk back. I spent an hour one day, with 2 minute time outs, just to get her to pick up three toys. I finally won the battle and later that day when I asked her to put something away, she didn't hesitate. I will also use, stand in the corner, count to three, spanking, sit on the couch. I like to mix up my disapline so they don't know what it coming next. My daughter told me to shut up the other day (which we don't say that in our house) and I just looked at her and she ran to the corner crying. She knows when she is bad (doesn't stop her ever though!). I guess my main point it, let him win at somethings, it's great for his independence!

My daughter is going through this stage and I calmly resopnd with "I'm not asking you to...I am telling that you are going to...and if you don't listen you will sit in a time out for 3 min." Or sometimes I explain why she will follow with "...because we are at the store and I don't want to stop shopping again to go to the bathroom again." (the potty is a big one for us;)
I am a big supporter of requiring respect from my children! I am thier mother and they will listen to me. I never want to be in a siuation where my childs saftey is in jepordy and they turn to argue with me and get hit by a car. On that note I am very careful to make sure that I have realistic expectations! And I do give them choices when it is appropiate.
Many Blessings, K.

Absolutely!!
He is clearly trying to exert his autonomy... which is a good thing. If you consider 20 years down the line, what you want him to be as an adult...
Since you are aware he is likely to talk back when given a demand, the best solution would be to change your approach before giving him a demand. You may try something along the lines of... "son" (name) I see your blocks scattered on the floor, I have a need to keep the house clean would you be willing to put those back in the box for me?
Getting in touch with how his talking back makes you feel can help to, do you feel angry, attacked, disrespected, sad, frustrated? If requesting with would you be willing gets a no... continue communicating... ask him why not? Let him have time to answer. It may be simple, like I want to do this first, to which you can say okay so would you be willing to clean them up after doing that. He may say yes, and if he does, still supervise so you're not upset if he forgets. Feel free to remind him of the agreement. If you have stated a demand and he talks back, feel free to express your feelings to him. When I hear you say No to me, I feel sad because I need help keeping the house clean, would you be willing to tell me why you don't want to clean up?

I'm a parenting class instructor... these methods are based on connection parenting styles and non-violent communication. Please feel free to contact me at ____@____.com if you try this and get either good or bad results. I'll help you tweak to meet his personality and individual needs.

My hubby has a simple solution that works great. When he reply's negatively, simply say, "say okay." but say it in a matter of fact pleasant way. Say it how you would want him to say it.

He doesn't correct what he says he just tells him what to say what he wants to hear. 99% of the time my son (almost three) says it the way he it told to say it.

The other times he is told to sit on the couch and fold his hands. THen we talk about why he is sitting there. Because he didn't say what dad wanted him to say.

I have a tendancy to correct him and get angry with how he is talking but I am learning from my husbands interactions with him to simply have him repeat what you say and how you perfer he say it. And leave it at that.

These are the days we need to train them to say and do and even think in the right way.

I have a blog that discusses these kind of things. You may want to have a look at the section called CHILD TRAINING.

www.shapinglittlesouls.blogspot.com

My 3 year old is doing that a bit as well. What I do is crouch down to his level, look him in the eye and tell him, "That kind of behavior is not acceptable. This is your warning. If you continue to talk to me this way, you will go to a time out." I know you wouldn't expect a 3 year old to know what the word acceptable and continue mean, but you'd be surprised. And if he continues to behave badly, put him time out. Explain to him that he is in time out because he was talking back and misbehaving. (One minute per year he's been alive.) Tell him that the time out does not start until he stops fussing or crying. Once he's stopped his fussing and his crying, set an egg timer or some other timer. When the timer goes off, walk over to the time out corner, step, chair, etc, bend down to his level and explain to him that he had been put in time out because he was misbehaving and talking back to you. Then, ask him for an apology. If he doesn't apologize, he doesn't get out of time out. If he apologizes, give him a hug and a kiss and tell him you love him. If he gets out of time out before you let him out of time out, put him back in time out and reset the timer. It'll be hard, trust me, it took almost a month before my son took to the time out and now all we have to do is look at him grumpily and he runs over to time out. We're struggling with our daughter because she's so young, but she has to be taught too. Good luck!

Hello S., This is a normal stage. My mother-in-law used to always tell me that the only difference between a three year old and a teenager is the size of their bodies. LOL. Paying too much attention to the behavior can make it worse. Kids learn fast that bad behavior can get them undivided attention, so they will do it more. They love being in a debate, any debate if, and only if, it gets them what they want. So stay calm, don't give your son ANY attention. Tell him calmly once that such and such privilege will be taken away. Make it something that he loves doing. Remember that he can't argue if he doens't have anyone to argue with. Don't allow him to play that game with you. Kids are very smart!! And most important, don't give it by giving the privilege back. Say what you mean, and mean what you say, or your son will never believe when you say something. Empty threats will come back to haunt you later. Good luck, and happy holidays.

Sounds like he is getting into a power struggle with you which is an appropriate age for it to be happening. I'm reading a great book called Children: The Challenge by Dreikurs if you are looking for something to read.

Mine has been testing me too lately, he called me dumb mommy on Sunday and I said That is not a nice way to talk to someone you do not call people names it hurts their feelings and I don't talk to people that call me names. Then about two minutes later he was calling me to do something for him and I ignored him. When he persisted I reminded him that I do not talk to mean people and I will not do anything for someone who is calling me names. It continued this way with him calling me and me ignoring his requests for about 45 mins and I was just doing my house work acting like I couldn't even hear him. Then out of the blue he came up to me and said Mommy I love you you are a Smart Mommy. I said okay that is better I love you too, please do not call anyone names anymore. Yesterday he started to say it again and he caught himself :) Guess it worked. I know he wanted what he wanted and that is what provoked him to say he was sorry in his own way but it worked for whatever reason. With toys that is another story but we will be trying to turn on some music and clean up all the toys like they do at school. Make it a game and maybe it will be more fun instead of just barking orders, they need more help with this they are only three and that is like you starting a new job and someone just telling you go out and do the job without direction and assistance from me...Sometimes you need to be more creative. I have an 11 yr old and an 8 yr old and they are usually pretty respectful to me and other adults. They do have thier moments though. Good luck remember consistency is the key in anything that you do!

Hi S.,
My son went through the same thing about the same time. I found that if I gave him options he did better. Even if it was picking up his toys. I would tell him he could pick his toys up now or after lunch and he could choose one. If he didn't do it and I had to pick them up, I got to keep them. He liked to pick out his own clothes so I would pull out 3 shirts and 3 pants and he could pick whatever he wanted. As long as I involved him with lots of our decision making it seemed to go much smoother. Good luck.
Chris

Hi S.,

He's right on schedule. Right around 3 years old is when children realized they are a separate person not an extension of mom. Then they start testing this new freedom out. Often it will be through saying things just like you quoted. It's really good that he can verbalize so well.

He"s trying to exert his individuality so it may be a good time to start giving him more choices. He'll feel he does have a say sometimes. Then he might not talk back quite so much. Hope this helps,

G.

S., I have had this before too. My 4 year old still tests me. I stop him right in his tracks and stop everything going on and he has to sit in the chair alone and think about being nice. I now say, "Who is in charge?" as a warning. Sometimes the little guy starts off with "I am" but by the time I start walking towards him he is saying "Mommy is in charge and we have to be nice" and it usually works well.
If he won't stop, I just say, you must be too tired to act nicely...and off to bed he goes. I have had to inconvenience myself and even have him "rest" in his carseat until he is well enough to behave better even when we are out, but he is a strong-willed little thing!
With my second daughter, who is just as stubborn, I resorted to a squirt of 'brain juice'...which was prune or something she detested. When she started, I just said, I think your brain is tired, you are not speaking nice...I think you need some brain juice...worked very quickly...even when she did like the tomato juice.
My relatives think I am weird, but my kids are in line!

Hi S.,

I think all little ones start an independant stage where they talk back and want to do things in their time. What has worked for me, I ask him to pick up his toys, he says no, you do it yourself. I leave it for a bit, ask him again and he usually gets to it. Sometimes, just like us, I think they just don't feel like it at the time. We have a basket to put things in if he is still in the process of playing with things and Im cleaning the area, toys go in, I do my thing, toys come back out. I try to appeal to the logic of a toddler, it hurts mommy's feelings, it makes mommy sad, etc. If you are out and about and the sass starts, you can always say, "ok, I see you don't want to shop now, we can put everything back and go home."
There are times I will leave his toys out for a couple days, as much as it kills me to see the mess, I can tell by looking, he has some grand plan in mind he is trying to work out and I would hate to spoil it. I have learned creative talking, there is no no such thing as a yes or no question that leaves me wide open for No. I say, lets put the toys away so we can do this, this or this when we are done. I hope some of the suggestions help. 1 more great tool comes to mind, if you don't have one already, try a lost and found bin. Lost means you picked it up and put it in bin for safe keeping, found means, he gets to get it back for helping without fuss.

Good Luck

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