Back Talk–My Fav

Dear Parents,

I know back talk is not your favorite thing about parenting children, nor is it mine.  Since I do it, I’m not sure why I dislike it so much, hmmm.

Here are a few tips about Back Talk for you to, as my friend Kiki says, “marinade in.”

Back Talk is like Ping Pong.

You know this, of course: If we are playing ping pong and you serve the ball to me – and then, I hit it back to you – we would have a game going, right? Back talk is a lot like that. If you “serve up” a remark and I hit back with, “Don’t talk to me like that, missy!” or any other “verbal volley” – it’s GAME ON!

On the other hand, if you served the ball to me – but I let it drop and busy up elsewhere – then, you wouldn’t have anyone to play with, right? It pretty much ends the game, which equals NO FUN, NO POWER, NO ENGAGEMENT for disrespectful behavior.

Of course, there would be the chase down the player who left the game game to entice the player back to the table. That is where your stealth gamer skills come in—regulate yourself, Mama/Papa Bear. Think of back talk as a game of ping pong. If your child talks back and you respond with a reprimand or a threat – or show any frustration at all – you’re IN THE GAME. That equals maladaptively getting attention, engagement, the gift of your energy, and power and puts your child in control. “YAY! I’m winning… I pushed “mom/dad buttons…” This is the way to feel good…” BUT – if your child serves up a little back talk, and you just let it land with a thud and don’t “hit back” – just let it fall to the ground, there’s no game. No control. No power in their words. If this works, awesome! It works with children from secure beginnings and might actually work with some of our children, so try it first.

For Children Experiencing Complex Developmental Trauma:

Your child might feel (not necessarily “think”), Well, that didn’t end up satisfyingly. This is boring. Who wants to fight alone? Or, your child might feel (not necessarily “think”), She is abandoning me, she doesn’t care about me, she won’t even talk to me. I have got to do something to get her back in the game. This is where a stealth gamer like you in the most therapeutic parenting ping pong way says only with your eyes, “I love you.” Once they realize you won’t reward the behavior with a volley response – it’ll get old, not fast, but over time.


This is a hard one because most parents think alike: There is NO WAY I’m going to let her get away with talking to me like that! S/he cannot disrespect me. I truly get you. But remember the objective in the first place…a maladaptive attempt to get your engagement, attention, struggle. I know in TBRI, there is the “Say that with respect…” script, but that is not intended to be used for back talk, so don’t be fooled by engaging because you will be feeding the ping pong beast. When you “let the ball drop,” you ARE in charge. And in a clear way, you are sending the message: “Nope. This is NOT a game we’re going to play.”

While it may seem a bit off at first, what you’ll soon realize is that it keeps you in the stealth gamer role in terms of what behavior you’ll accept and allow. But, your job in the moment is to avoid getting hooked into playing the ping pong game – and giving a payoff to their power struggle. This may take nerves of steel, but you got ‘em, right?

Breathe, regulate.

The next time your child lobs some back talk at you – let it land and keep on doing whatever you were doing, including walking nonchalantly away, saying something like, “Oh, I need to check the calendar for what’s next.” Don’t engage at all and see what happens. You must ignore the behavior; that means no energy whatsoever sent to the child–zero, nunca, no negative facial expressions, huffs, quick about-faces or disapproving energy. But DO NOT IGNORE THE CHILD, because they cannot handle the feeling of abandonment when you do. This is key.

I think it is a good idea to share in advance how you plan to respond to impolite back talk in the future. You do want your children to know what to expect and how to interpret what you are doing. Okay, try to trust me on this and give it a whirl.

You might find, as I did, that you have a bad response backhand swing that keeps the ping pong game perpetual.

There will be more about stomping out Back Talk for good in the Love Matters Parenting Society, and this is a good start.

Love matters, when more than love is required,


P.S. You got this.

The Attach Place/Local Community Upcoming Events Calendar

Today is the Last day to register for the Defending the Cause TrainingUp Conference.

Use this code MEM19 to get a $10 admission discount.  You can get great info and refreshers on supporting your children. See you at our table there–you can get a Love Matters wrist bracelet/stickers, too.

August 28th the Love Matters Parenting Society opens its doors…
Love Matters Parenting Society for a THRIVING Life with Children from Difficult Beginnings. Check it out.  You are going to love it, I promise.

ADOPTION SUPPORT GROUP facilitated by Ce Eshelman, LMFT:   Adoptive Parent Support Group, September 11, 2019.   Support Group is every 2nd Wednesday of every month from 6 pm to 8 pm in The Attach Place office. Open to the public.  Free childcare provided.

AUTISM Support Group:  Monthly Strictly Social Autism Spectrum Disorder Night for Tweens (11 yrs – 16 yrs) at The Attach Place. Open to the public. Every third Monday from 5:30 to 7pm.  Gluten-free snacks provided. Please RSVP to so we get enough snacks. This is a  monthly social group for the youth; and caregivers will have an opportunity to connect, chat, and chill in a separate space. There will also be occasional fun field trips, like bowling, ice skating, roller skating, etc. A donation of $5.00 will be accepted for food and supervision if you are able, but please don’t let that be an attendance barrier because the group is FREE.  ASD kids need a social life and this is a great way to make it happen.

GIVE A BOOK OF SUPPORT TO A FELLOW PARENT ON THE ADOPTION JOURNEY: Drowning With My Hair On Fire: Insanity Relief For Adoptive Parents by Ce Eshelman, LMFT.  Daily inspirational reading for those who sometimes find it hard to keep hope alive. There is hope for healing.  Buy from Amazon or order a discounted copy here.




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