43 answers

My Four Year Old Talks Back Constintly and Wont Listen

With me working its so hard to disipline the same as my husband when he is home with them. Because honestly I dont know what all he does for disipline, I have tryd the corner and that is not working at all, my husband wants to try soap in her mouth but there arent any safe ones for your mouth as far as i know. i know in the bible it says to diciplane your child so they know what to do and not to do and to protect them. Its so hard i have spanked on ocation and she hates that but i dont do it very hard but i feel that that just hurts her feelings i would love some help in trying how to help her understand that talking to her parents and other adults this way is wrong please help thanks A.

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

I feel for you, A.! My 6 year old son has been giving us a hard time with back talk as well. Along the lines of what some others have said: if they get attention for a behavior (positive or negative) they'll keep doing it. I occasionally have to resort to giving MYSELF a time out, since my son is too big for me to carry & won't stay in his room. MY room, on the other hand, has a lock on the door, so I go in & he's not allowed to join me until he calms down & apologizes. It is amazing how quickly he can correct himself once there is no one responding to him. Usually we end up snuggling in my bed for a while & having a nice talk!

We've also used earlier bedtimes & toy time outs with success in the past.

Good luck!

Try a little vinegar or molasses in their mouth when they talk back. Either one has been very effective for us cause it's a one time hit and they do not want it again!
Good Luck!

Hi A.,
I have 3 kids and my middle one is just about 4. My oldest is 6 and they never really responded to me giving them a warning or anything like that. Now each kid has to make their own "punishment". It is usually taking away a toy that they decide on and also how long. Kids tend to be harder on themselves than we think. Now we give "reminders" and if they don't listen after one reminder they get a "frowny" face and if they get 5 in one day, then they receive the punishment that they chose before. Suprisingly, it works great. When I give the reminder I also let them know that they will get a frowny face. My almost 4 yo will listen right away because he hates getting those faces. The most he has gotten in one day is 4 and their limit starting out was 5 in one day.
I was spanked as a child (not out of anger) but my husband and I don't believe in that or any other form of physical punishment. I believe that if you punish them by hitting (spanking) that will show them it is okay to hit.
I wish you much luck!

More Answers

Hi A., I hear from your question that spanking doesn't feel right to you. Keep listening to your heart. There is a wonderful online community called "Consensual Living". It was created by and for individuals who are wanting to create a family climate of peace and trust. We see each and every behavior as a "message", an attempt by an individual to communicate some valid underlying need. In dealing with challenging behaviors of kids, we (on that group) usually try to help each other find out what "underlying needs" the child and parents are experiencing, and how to create "consensual" solutions in meeting the needs of all parties. "Consensual" solutions, meaning that the solutions work for everyone, even the child, and values such as teamwork, mutual care, and trust in the peace-process are modeled every step of the way in reaching a solution.

I found out about the Consensual Living philosophy a couple years ago, and I am so grateful. My family (3yo and 5yo) has always been free of all types of violence and even my 3year-old is an excellent communicator of needs and a very creative problem-solver. My 5year-old has been shown consideration and care of her feelings and has taken "physical safety" of her body for granted her whole life. It is beautiful to see how she now has internalized those qualities as she's grown and now has that strong peaceful security and willingness to look for the best in others, to offer her sister and playmates as she gets older. If there is a time when it appears that either child is unwilling to consider my feelings, then that is a sign to me to work on the *relationship* in the context of peace and trust - not a sign to use threats to coerce the child into pretending as *if* she cares. There are many, many open, authentic ways to create peace and concern for others in the family.

Here is the link to join the Consensual Living group if you're interested:

This is the website that explains the philosophy:


2 moms found this helpful

When my 5-year-old has attitude issues, he loses all TV privileges (not that he watches a ton) and we make more of an effort to redirect his energy. It is important to make sure she gets plenty of exercise and attention, as well as creative outlets (drawing, painting, coloring, playdough, dress-up, pretend play, etc.) and time with other children (play dates, ECFE classes, preschool, etc.). I know it is especially hard during the winter, but make sure the kids get out frequently, even if it's to make a quick run to the grocery store.
As far as discipline goes, we use spankings as a last resort. In the OLD movie "Little Women" there's a line that says something like, "When you hit and humiliate, you are only teaching to hit and humiliate". That really stuck with me.
Time-outs can be a hard thing to get them used to, but they are very effective once the child understands that you are not going to give in, so you have to stand your ground and be consistent.
It really, truly helps to have a family meeting to talk about the house rules and what is expected of each child. Even though my 5-year-old isn't a fantastic reader yet, we wrote down the family rules and what his jobs were as a part of the family, and we refer to the list when he needs a reminder. There's something about having it in plain view and on paper that makes it more real.
We also explain to him (or have him explain to us) what he did wrong (even if it's obvious) and how it affect other people. Punishment means more when they fully understand the reasoning behind it.
We also have a a couple items from Brite Music that have helped. Feel free to contact me if you need more information.
The first is a book & CD set on obedience. It's a story about 2 children who visit the Land of Obey and meet Mr. Did, who obeys, and Mr. Didn't, who doesn't obey. The characters teach the children about the importance of listening the FIRST time they are asked to do something. It has songs throughout the story to make it a lot of fun. My son LOVES listening to it! And when he won't listen I just remind him about the lessons the story teaches him.
The second item is an obedience chart that we use when he just WILL NOT LISTEN. It has a track on it and he gets to move his obedience train up the track one space every time he listens the first time. He gets a reward when he reaches the top.
Good luck! You're not alone.

2 moms found this helpful

I have a 7 year old that is the same. I work full-time, have 2 part-time jobs and 2 girls so I know where you are coming from. What I found that works is to first communicate with your husband so you are both on the same page as far as discipline (nothing worse than fighting with your child and husband). I did soap twice, but what worked really well was hot sauce - I'd say once "do you want hot sauce" and boy does her attitude change. Another thing that works for us is positive reinforcement - talk to your child and tell them that together you are going to work on stopping the sass and if after 3 days (start small, reasonable goals that she sees she can accomplish then raise them) give her a special treat. Try buying it first and keeping it on the counter so she sees what her reward is. That worked WONDERFUL for our family. Good luck.

2 moms found this helpful

I'm with Michelle on this one. It's really hard to deal with when you are tired and worn out, but the first thing I would wonder is where is she seeing this modeled. My son started talking back recently and I realized that I was so tired that I had been being short with him and my husband. Snapping directions to get everyone fed, bathed, needs met and off to bed. Model good conversation and be consistent. Say things to her like, "We don't talk that way to each other." and offer her a good way to express her feelings, then just move on. Don't engage her in negative attention. And maybe even point out when you or your husband respond kindly to each other, like, "Thanks, dear, for saying that nicely. I may not have liked your answer, but I respect you're opinion." Or whatever. I know it sounds hokey, but that's how young kids learn.... heck, that's even how big kids learn!

1 mom found this helpful

My son had been doing some talking back at that age. I took the lead of a friend who took the really painful route---toys. When my son talks back disrespectfully, he has to choose one of his favorite toys to take to the local Goodwill and give away. Initially, it was painful for me as I thought, "That's money down the drain," however, he learned quickly that we don't talk back or we lose something we really want. It's more powerful when they actually have to give the toy away as well....it sends the message that if we can't be nice to others, there is a definite consequence. For us, it helped curb the nasty talk very quickly.

1 mom found this helpful

Hi A.,

I am a mental health counselor and I do a lot of parental teaching on discipline. Discipline means "to teach". Punishment is something different. Spanking is punishment. It tells the child that they did something wrong, but not what to do right.

I would first suggest that you and hubby sit down and discuss discipline. You need to be on the same page with this. This may be why she is acting out because she is getting different messages from the two of you.

Secondly, I would recommend doing some behavior modification with her. If she is talking back, put her in time out and don't interact with her. Start with a few minutes and work up if she continues. By ignoring her, I mean do not talk to her, interact with her or doing anything to give her attention. After time out, sit her down and tell her that what she did was wrong and tell her that she needs to respect you by listening to you. When she does well, give her lots of praises.

It will take time, but keep the faith and it will work. Make sure hubby follows the same approach that you do, so you both work together as a team. You are each other's support system too.

Good luck,

L. :)

BTW...soap is also punishment, not discipline.

1 mom found this helpful

I actually have a four year old little boy myself. Im a young mom going to school and working. The disipline situation can be very difficult. One of the biggest things that helped in our house was consistency between parents. Being a child is hard and confusing they are learning so many new things and testing their boundaries at home. What my fionce and I did was sat down a figured out some "house rules" and consequences. One of our punishments at our house is my son has a "thinking chair". If he is talking back he gets warned once and the second time he has to go to his chair for a few minutes. We found that putting the chair in a completely seperate area where he could not get attention helped alot. After the few minutes are up we he has usually calmed down and we talk about what happened and he has to say sorry before leaving the chair. I have taken a few psychology courses and developmental courses in my college career and it is a common belief that positive reinforcment usually has the best outcome. So at our house we try to prep our son for the day and tell him if he does things well he gets to do something special. One example is on thursdays the library has story time at 6:30 and if my son had a good day that is one reward, a special bed time treat, or reading an extra book before bed. Little ones love attention so just giving them lots of hugs, high fives, and even dancing with them when they do a good job goes a long way! good luck it is a hard stage but just like potty training and sleeping through the night it will be over before you know it!

1 mom found this helpful

I know how hard it is to raise kids and working full time.
I have 2 kids (daughter age 11 and son age 8), and work between 50 to 60 hour per week. But there is a balance to it all.
I have spanked my kids when punishment calls for it. I little sting on the butt sometimes goes a long way. I also practice am open comunication with my kids and I started that as early as possible for them to start understanding the situation.
I learned that kids will push and never stop unless they learn that it will get them nowhere.
When it came to a spanking, I had a wooden spoon that was used for only that and if needed my kids had to get it for me.
Because if I had to get the spoon that called for 2 swats in stead of one. Other situations called for the lose of a prize possesion. For a couple days, maybe a week, or even a month. There has been times that I would go right into the garbage, and never returned. But also in turn I talked to my kids alot and explained to them ,sometimes over and over again, the importance to listening, respect and helping out around the house. We are a family and everone has there part to hold our family together. I also have a house rule that if you can't listen to mom and dad; later when you want something or want to go some where we don't have to listen to you. And we end the day with telling each other that we Love them and I never leave the house with out giving them a kiss, even if they are sleeping.
It's hard being the parent. You have to be tuff and firm. Stand your ground. And keep reminding the kids whow is the parent. And it doesn't stop after one day. You need to inforce it day after day after day. Also I have had days where I need to pray alot for help from our good Lord.
Prayer is a wonderful thing.


1 mom found this helpful

1 / 3
Required Fields

Our records show that we already have a Mamapedia or Mamasource account created for you under the email address you entered.

Please enter your Mamapedia or Mamasource password to continue signing in.

Required Fields

, you’re almost done...

Since this is the first time you are logging in to Mamapedia with Facebook Connect, please provide the following information so you can participate in the Mamapedia community.

As a member, you’ll receive optional email newsletters and community updates sent to you from Mamapedia, and your email address will never be shared with third parties.

By clicking "Continue to Mamapedia", I agree to the Mamapedia Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.