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When Your Consequences For Talking Back Aren’t Working, Try This

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Inside: Have you tried various consequences for talking back with your child and nothing seems to work? Check out the 4-step approach that’s sure to stop the bad behavior.

I‘ve found myself in the “consequence trap” more times than I can count.

You know the one.

It’s that situation when you’ve tried rewards, negative consequences, even taking away everything a child has and nothing seems to work.

So you try and find bigger and better consequences for talking back or lying or arguing, believing that the right consequence will finally be the solution to all of your problems.

Sound familiar?

RELATED: The Ultimate List of Parenting Tips and Advice For New Parents

Mom tries a different parenting strategy when her consequences for talking back aren't working.

The Importance of Relationship

The truth of the matter is, when relationships are damaged, even the very best techniques fail.

Nothing will change until your relationship does, regardless of what consequence you throw at a child.

And this is true not only for children who talk back, but also for those who argue, lie, beg, or are downright disrespectful.

It’s not the type of consequence that makes a difference, but the loving relationship that gives the consequence its power.

So how do you rebuild a relationship with your child?

Try the 4-step approach listed below:

1. Make every “hello” and “goodbye” special

Just picture how you would feel if your significant other failed to tell you “I love you. Have a great day!” before they walked out the door for work.

Or if they totally brushed you off when you tried to kiss them goodnight before bed.

Speaking from experience, it’s not fun!

You feel unnoticed, ignored, and definitely not special.

Now imagine how your children may feel during those “hello” and “goodbye” events throughout the day. Are you giving them the same special attention you want and need to feel noticed?

To rebuild your relationship with your child, make sure you give them plenty of eye contact, a smile, and a hug when you first see them in the morning, when they head out the door for school, when they return, and right before bed.

Showing how glad you are to see them and how much you’ll miss them when they’re gone will help them to feel wanted and loved.

2. Notice something about them once a day

“I noticed that you _________ today.”

Just fill in the blank with something you saw your child doing during the day that will make them feel special.

When I’m giving my child their special “goodbye” right before bed, I like to share what I noticed about them during the day.

Sometimes it’s how I saw them being helpful when we were getting ready for dinner.

Sometimes it’s how I saw them being kind to one of their siblings.

Sometimes they’ve had somewhat of a terrible day and it’s really tough for me to think of something good I saw them doing that day, so I’ll share a talent or strength I know they have.

The act of noticing something about them, especially when they didn’t think you were watching, is powerful.

3. Love them even when they’re not so lovable

We would never wait until our significant other “deserved” our love before we provided it.

At least we shouldn’t.

The same rule applies to our children.

We should show our children love even when we don’t like their behavior.

This is easier said than done, but one way is to provide empathy before we provide discipline.

Another way is to use the statement, “I love being your mom/dad,” during your special “goodbye” right before bed. It helps a child see that you enjoy raising them and loving them and is a nice alternative to the traditional “I love you.”

You can use it on your spouse, too!

4. Neutralize arguing

I think we can all agree that arguing with our kids is a big waste of time.

It accomplishes absolutely nothing and can teach several unhealthy lessons:

  • Arguing with my parents is a good way to get their attention.
  • If I’m persistent with my arguing, my parents will eventually give in.
  • Seeing my dad get so upset is fun!
  • When I need a little power fix, it’s easy to get one by arguing with mom or dad.

So what do we do when a child insists on arguing?

1. Avoid lectures

What happened when your parents gave you lectures as a kid?

You tuned them out, right?

What do you think your kids are doing when you start lecturing and trying to match wits?

They’re tuning you out, or even worse:

Getting fuel for their fire.

The less we talk the better. Lectures have never worked for any parent.


2. Calmly repeat a one-liner

So if you shouldn’t lecture what are you supposed to say when your kids insist on arguing?

While you could just ignore them, it’s more effective to calmly repeat the same phrase over and over.

This way, regardless of what our kids say, we starve them of their argument fuel.

Like plants in a hot summer sun, their arguing and talking back withers and dies.

Here are some examples for you to try:

  • I love you too much to argue.
  • I know.
  • Nice try.
  • What did I say?
  • Thank you for sharing.

And here’s an example of the one-liner in action:

Mom: It’s time to clean up the toys and wash up for dinner.
Child: No mom! I’m still playing!
Mom: What did I say?
Child: I don’t want to clean up and I’m not hungry!
Mom: What did I say?
Child: Fine, I’ll just stay here and keep playing. You can’t make me go to dinner.
Mom: Nice try….

Using the one-liners over and over again provides very little dialogue for the child to argue with, just remember to repeat the one-liner calmly rather than with anger or sarcasm.

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Your Turn

Which one-liner are you going to try with your kids? Do you already have a one-liner or phrase that you like to use to neutralize arguing?

Let me know in the comments!

The content for this post came from a parenting course I took based on Love and Logic®.

You can find an in-person course here, if you’re local to Utah.

Or you can order the book to start transforming how you parent when it comes to chores, eating, homework, lying, picking up, and so much more.

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A Pinterest image with text and a mom sitting on the stairs smiling at her 3 kids.