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.

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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!

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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:


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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.


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A., your one kid ahead of me, but I know how you feel; I worked full time with each of my pregnancies right up to the day I had them! It's great that you are concerned with a good way to discipline your children. First I would suggest asking your husband about it and decide together how you want to discipline your children. Then you must always be consistent. I don't oppose spanking, although you must be certain that you are doing it while not in the heat of anger. Often, different children will respond better with different disciplines. Time-outs may work well for one, while another will think it's a great game and not be affected by it at all. Since you didn't put your other childrens ages, I would say that with younger children time-outs work well. When children get older (say 5 and up) you can start to talk about rules and consequences to broken rules. At my house, the consequences to broken rules are reduced time on computer and gaming stations, no playtime with friends, and more added work responsibilities around the house and yard. (My oldest is 10). I save spankings for last resorts and serious reprimands.
Whatever you choose to do, please pray about it, and make sure that both you and your husband agree upon it and stick to it.
God Bless

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Spanking and putting soap in her mouth may temporarily stop the behavior, but it won't teach her how to behave appropriately and it might actually teach her that it's o.k. to hit, be mean, etc. Do either you or your husband have time to take an ECFE class? They do offer them in the evenings. They were lifesavers for me. You've already had some great books recommended, but others are "Raising your Spirited Child" and "Power Struggles" by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka and "HOw to Talk so your Kids will Listen and Listen so your kids will Talk." Good luck. I had a very willful, spirited 4-year-old who is now a delightful 11-year-old. There can be light at the end of the tunnel.

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Oh A. I am there with you! Mine is doing the same thing. I have also, when she has gotten bad enough, a little smear of soup from my finger to the tip of her tongue. she does not like this at all. I then let her rinse it out after 30 seconds. I have also spanked on occasion and the corner and time out chair does not work for me either. The only thing that seems to work for me is to sit her on my lap an dhold her fairly tight, becasue she is usually screaming and hollaring and kicking etc by this time, talk to her softly. Yes I threaten to discipline but rarely do I have to get that far. I have figured out htat usually they just want our attention and even if it is "bad" attention it is still attention. Now my other 2 are not like that! So at least a few minutes each day is spent with her on my lap even if it is just watching tv. I do this with the other 2 also in different ways since they are older. This also allows me to relax for a few minutes too. Good luck to you and if you figure something that works let me know! S.

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I HIGHLY recommend a book called Becoming the Parent You Want To Be: A Sourcebook of Strategies for the First Five Years, by L. Davis and Janis Keyser. It gives lots of ideas for dealing with problem behaviors, and importantly, it explains WHY children do what they do at certain developmental stages. For me, understanding the why helps me keep frustration in check when my toddler is driving me crazy. I also like this book in particular because it is sensitive to the needs of different kinds of families. You are obviously a dedicated, caring Mom. Good luck!

I think it would be helpful if you sit down with your husband and decide together how you will both discipline. You both need to be on the same page or your children will pit you and your husband against each other. Whatever you try, you need to be consitent with it. Do you ever watch Super Nanny? She has some great ideas too. Good luck!
Sincerely, C. M

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.
we had the same problem with our four year old. We started using mild hot sauce. she hates it and will listen and not talk back much better now. once in awhile I will say do you need hot sauce and she will say no and straighten up. we also treat our children with respect and model good behavior, Good luck this stage is tough.:)T.

1. be consistent
2. be calm
3. try broken record. simply state what you want done, use short sentence, repeat it with no changes. then walk away. (don't give the child an audience for backtalk -- the child will eventually quit because there is no reward to it.)
4. increase praise for positive behavior "I really like it when you....You did a really good job of ..."
5. Minimize criticism.
6. Post a list of simple house rules.
7. watch SuperNanny and steal what you like.
8. The corner is not punishment; it is time out to get the child to re-think whether his/her actions paid off. stay calm. stay calm. stay calm.
9. Remember who is in charge; when you forget (as we all do), take a time out yourself, and tell the child you are taking a time out. It models for the child what to do when he/she loses control of her behavior.
10. No spanking. Girls that are spanked end up marrying men who beat them.
11. I do not think the Bible is particularly helpful to you, sorry.
12. watch what your husband does. talk to him. you guys need to be addressing this together, not apart. if you two argue, your child learns to talk back. keep your arguments private away from the child. never argue in front of your child.
14. Prepare the child for whatever is coming down the road that they might not like: in 15 minutes it will be time for your bath, then, in 10 minutes it will be time for your bath (or bed).
15. When someone is coming over, review with her how you expect her to behave. John is coming over. How do we act when John is here? ask her what the rules are -- believe me, even at 4 she knows. Involve her in the visit. Perhaps she can answer the door or help you in the kitchen?

It's a stage that most four year olds go through. Mine will talk back, and after a warning he tries to see if he can say it again to test my reaction. I always give him one swat on the butt and carry him kicking and screaming to his room for a time out. He can come out when he is done crying and is done talking back. If he comes out still crying or still yelling I start all over and put him right back in there. It works for me because we do it every time and my kids no what the punishment is going to be. You and your husband should agree on what the punishment for any bad behavior is and both consistantly use the same tactics. We do and I don't think it would work if we were not the same. Good luck!

Consistancy is the key!

I have soaped my 7 year old ONCE, and now just the threat of it is enough for her to modify her behavior.
She knows I'll do it again if need be.

My son is 4 and a bit more stubborn. He still gets soaped, even after I warn him, but he will now modify his behavior to avoid the soap about 75% of the time; as opposed to any other method I've tried (naughty chair, taking away a toy, taking away television, counting...)

I don't know how harmful soap actually is, but my children are extremely healthy. It's not as though I make them eat a bar of it; just enough to leave a nasty taste in their mouths. If you think about it, they probably get about that amount in their mouths during bath time anyway.

If I were you, I'd check with my pediatrician to see what she says about soap. Maybe she can suggest a certain brand that wouldn't be harmful.
You probably will only have to do it once or twice! :)

There's a great book out there called To Train Up A Child by Michael Pearl. It is published by No Greater Joy Ministries and you can go directly to their website and even read a PDF section for free. (I learned a lot from those small bits of the book.) Here's the website: http://shop.nogreaterjoy.org/product_info.php/cPath/1_14/...

If you want to read even more, just look for the "sequels" to this book, entitled No Greater Joy Vol. 1-3. The thing I like is that they concentrate on training rather than discipline. Discipline only needs to happen if a child has gone against what he/she was taught. I think your kids are young enough to benefit from this. I believe you can even do it as a full time worker because you can set aside a special time at night or on a weekend where you have "bootie camp" or training sessions for your child.

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!

It sounds like you really shouldn't be working. Is there any way you can quit or change your schedule so you can be home? Maybe your husband and you need to sit down and talk about discipline methods and come to an agreement. I went through the same thing after we got an additional two kids in ur house after my husband's sister and her husband passed away. You have to communicate. As for not working...you are shouldering the majority of issues it seems. You might discover that you can survive on one income and that everyone is much happier with you home in control! Good luck!

I highly recommend "What the Bible Says About Child Training", by Fugate. It outlines principles and practical approaches to getting rebellion under control. Best book I ever read on parenting, this side of the Bible!

Homeschool SAHM of seven lively, happy and respectful children

Ive learned that it doesnt matter what you both do as long as your consistant. One thing I read about time outs is that it doesnt matter if they talk or cry,its best to ignore them and if you have to sit with them so they stay there you just hold them. You just have to be consistant and back up every thing you say. Its hard to not take it back because you dont want them to be punished but thats how they learn. No warnings just put them in time out and then it the acting up will change fast.

Go to your public library or family resource center and ask about "1-2-3 Magic". there is a book as well as a video that you can watch. it is wonderful, only took about 3 days to impliment and it works!!!

hey A.!

our 4 year old son is having some issues with talking back & listening, and we've had to adopt a zero tolerance policy at our house. it seems harsh, but we spend a lot of good time with him talking & explaining our discipline & consequences - we never punish without discussion.

anyway - our old daycare provider suggested vinegar instead of soap with talking back, being hateful, etc. it tastes awful, but won't hurt your child. it had the opposite effect on our son - he got defiant & told us it tasted good. so we went to plan b - hot sauce. it sounds monumentally mean, but we started with the green tabasco that is basically jalapenos. it's hot enough to get his attention, but it won't hurt him. he *hates* it. the threat of getting the hot sauce is typically enough to change his attitude. plus, you can't find vinegar that tastes worse, but hot sauce gets hotter if you need it to. :)

we talk to our son a lot about how talking back/being hateful/shouting/ignoring feels. we practice a personalized version of "attachment parenting" that basically says that you treat your child with respect & parent in a loving, positive way that empowers your child to behave well. it sounds really touchy-feely, but it works for us. check out www.askdrsears.com for more information.

good luck! i know we're finding that 4 is a lot more challenging than terrible 2s! :)
mom to chase (4) and paige (due 6.2.08)

Hi A. -

We had the same trouble with our 4 year old and nothing seemed to work very well (we did time outs, spankings, taking toys away, award charts, pepper in the mouth, etc). I ended up getting a book from a friend called "1-2-3 Magic" by Thoman Phelan PhD, and that made a huge difference!!!! I would recommend taking a look at it. Good luck!

A phrase that I use with my kids when they talk back is, "Rephrase that." It is important to teach your kids the difference between expressing their opinion and talking back. I do not allow my kids to talk back, but I do allow them to speak their mind. With a simple reminder...rephrase that please (said firmly)...they know that they have crossed the line and need to think out what they want to say so that it is said in a better way. If they don't rephrase what they want to say, time-outs, taking away of privledges, etc.

When I first started doing this with them, they would often ask what was wrong with how they said what they did....which would lead to an open talk on how they should speak to people, why it's important to communicate effectively, etc. Be prepared for some off the wall questions, but also work it out with them on their level of understanding (this is when I also tell them, "you want respect you've gotta give it first").

By doing this, I opened the door to many discussions with my kids on how people treat others and the importance of communicating well (without whining, complaining, insulting, demanding, etc.) So rather than punishment right off, use this time to teach your daughter how to correct herself. I'm sure your husband will also find this to be a much better solution as well and your daughter will be the one to benefit the most! Good luck!

I hear you. Spanking has done nothing but re-inforce violence as a way of dealing with conflict. My 5 yr old has unfortunately learned this and now I'm trying to teach him that I was wrong - there are other ways. Have you ever watched Supernanny on ABC? She has some good ideas. I think you need find a consistent way of dealing with her. A method that works. I've used a lot of ideas from this book by Barbara Coloroso, "Kids Are Worth It! : Giving Your Child The Gift Of Inner Discipline" It's at Amazon.com for $11: http://www.amazon.com/Kids-Are-Worth-Giving-Discipline/dp...

Hi A.--
My advice is to definitely get on the same page with your husband. If your daughter knows there are 2 sets of rules she will play by both of them, or the one she likes the best. So, sit down and have a chat and decide what behavior is tolerable and what isn't. Also decide what you will do to enforce the rules if she doesn't follow your expectations. I think time-outs work really well for kids her age. The most important thing to do is follow through--its also the toughest. So make sure you keep putting her back in time out if she gets up--that sort of thing. It may take a while the first time..I'm sure she will really test how serious you are about this new technique. But if you she her you mean business she will understand. I would also start the timeout over each time she leaves until she can complete about 4 minutes. Also there's a video called "123 Magic" by Thomas W. Phelan. It's a great resource for parenting tips and techniques....Good Luck!!

I am a grandma of 11 children and made many mistakes rearing my 4 boys. However, I have learned through parenting and grandparenting that no matter what discipline you use, BE CONSISTANT!!!. Do not ever make threats that you are not willing to carry out. And when you decide a punishment for inappropriate behavior, make sure you follow through with it every time that behavior occurs. I am not a big fan of spanking or soap in the mouth, but sometimes it is necessary, always remembering that God provided a nice little padded rear end for that spanking. I would advise however to NEVER punish out of anger and frustration. But always as a teaching method. One of the things that I found worked with one of my sons (he was also one that had to have many different types of punishment before I found one that worked)was to refuse to talk to him until he could speak respectfully. I would tell him that I would not talk to him until he would speak respectfully and listen to me and then I WOULD NOT SAY A WORD. It seemed to work the best. I would also take him home if he was rude to others or misbehaved in public. After a few times of having his outing cut short, he came around to behave when out and about.
I will say a prayer for you. I would not want to be a mother of young children in today's society.

I've done the soap in my daughter's mouth when she has used cuss/swear words directed at me or other adults and I'll do it again if I have to.

When my daughter talks back is sassy or has attitude I tell her to go to her room and donot let her cut in I'll keeps saying louder and louder Go go go go go go go go and cut her off.

I certainly wouldn't let this one go for too long. As it won't get beter just worse. Be consistant, find out what your husband does and do it. No excuses, remember this is your future. I would rather deal with a 4yr. old talking back than a 14 year old wouldn't you? Also remember you are the parent! I spanked my kids when they were young, they turned out to be two beautiful young ladies.(15 & 17) A great book that I have read recently is "Shepherding a Child's Heart", may God give you His perfect wisdom. B. G

I have tried a lot of things also but the one that seems to work more than most is a toy time out. We take away a toy she's really likes to play with. Of course this seems to change daily. But it seems to work better that her standing in the corner in time out. One thing you got to remember to praise when she's done good, too. Try explaining why her toy is going in time out. And what we should have done. And give them a chore or something they can do to feel better about themselves. Like my daughter likes to help dust simple things like this. I hope this may help! Good luck!

I have twin 7yr old boys. I hate to inform you but it doesn't get any easier when they get older.Here are some tips to help that works with mine. Find something they enjoy and take that away when they misbehave. Especially special events like birthday parties and the circus, but even can be a toy or t.v. show. Another thing that works well in public but is probably better suited for your 4 yr old, is to pull them a side and tell them they are embarassing you. Ask them if they would want you to embarass them? It will make them understand better how it makes you feel when they act like that. Hope this helps and best of luck.

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!

Here's an article about talking back. Your discipline method may take weeks to work if you're consistant -- possibly never if you're not.
If you don't discipline your child, someone else will (teacher, boss, peers), and that someone else will not love your child nearly as much as you do.

That is a common thing for all kids. You need to set the boundaries early on in their life. It will take a lot more time because your child is 4 and has been allowed to be disrespectful to anyone in authority. I highly recommend the book "Sheparding a Child's Heart" by Tedd Tripp. It is a great book and will help give you some guidelines. Also, you and your husband need to be talking all the time about how to handle the kids, you need to agree upon what you will do with the behaviors. The part that your child doesn't like getting spanked, well who of us like discipline. We don't. But if there are no consequences for our bad choices in life, we would live in a bad place. You need to train your kids to be under your authority and to respect you. It will take lots of work, but the end result is awesome.

A wise old woman once said, "If we don't let our kids learn how to say NO when they are small, how will they be able to say NO to drugs, teenage sex, violence, etc.. when they are teenagers?"

You and your husband are missing an opportunity here to empower you daughter to make wise decisions for herself. When she says NO, encourage her by saying, "I LIKE the way you say no! AND you still need to...." Praise her for trying to make her own decisions, but let her know when YOU know what is best.

Asking your four year old WHY she is resisting something will be your vehicle to getting her to make better decisions: "Why don't you want to...?" She will tell you something that is either wise or unwise - you then can tell her why you believe one is wiser than the other.

All time outs and soapy mouths do for children is make them angry, bitter and hateful toward all authority figures. You had children because you wanted to raise healthy, helpful people who would make the world a better place. Hurting them sends the message that this is a hurtful world that they hate living in.

Take a step back A. and realize that girls are the gateway to the world of people. When she has children, she will follow your example whether you empower her or hurt her. Which would you really choose, given the choice? How would YOU have preferred to have been treated when you were a young girl - like a criminal or like a future president?

I'm going to repeat what the last person said and recomment "1-2-3 Magic" by Thoman Phelan PhD. This is an excellent resourse for parenting. He also has a website at www.parentmagic.com which has newsletters you can read and print and I think there is one on spanking. His program has been on public television and you can check the DVDs out at the public library.

Good luck!

We have stuggled with this too. My daughter is now 7 and in second grade, so the mouthing off is different now. We do discipline, but seems like all of her friends talk like this! Anyway, good to nip it in the bud. If you know something that she loves take it away. For my son it is his computer time that he loves. My daughter is crushed if she can't see her friends. My friend has taken away toys and done so until all of her daughters toys were gone. All she was left with was her bed and clothes. About the soap. It doesn't work long term, but the results happen right away. I have soaped my daughter, but haven't had to with my son. I never looked at the ingredients because I don't do it all of the time, in fact I don't remember the last time I did. I did it once and then just had to remind her that I could do it again. It sent the message home quickly and her health didn't suffer. What ever you do be consistent and don't be afraid to take your stand.

You have to do what works and what works for one child may not work for another.
Time outs are a good punishment. Just make sure the time is age appropriate. When you punish her give her a warning first and then follow through if the behavior continues. Be consistent. Also make sure you get down to her level to talk with her, face to face. Be calm when explaining things to her.
Maybe she's acting up because she wants attention. Try spending fun time with her one on one. Are you gone too much? Can you go down to part-time? Also, try to find out where she is learning to talk back. Is it from other kids?

There are lots of great books on this subject too. Good luck

Hi A.,

How do you respond to your daughter when she talks to you the way she does.

If you give her attention, she will keep doing it.

If you ignore her, and go about doing what you're doing and let her know that when she is able to talk nice to mom and dad you'll listen. 9 times out of 10 they'll start being nicer.

It worked for us.


There are many things you can do. One that works well for me is going to bed early. When my 4 year old is naughty I give him one warning, then if it happens again I tell him he has to go to bed 5 minutes early. If it continues I increase it by 5 minutes more. I've never had to go beyond 10 minutes. But what works best is to find what your children are most attached to and use it to your advantage. One example would be a favorite toy. If they are naughty explain what will happen to the doll if they continue their behavior. (ex. doll will go to timeout, doll will be taken away for the day, I've even resorted to throwing away a favorite toy, this makes a huge impact!)

Good Luck!

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