Disrespect/back talk

disrespectful child

Disrespect/Talking back

If your child has many difficult behaviors, including disrespect, I would recommend focusing on the other behaviors first. If your child is being disrespectful just to get a reaction from you, then just ignore it.

However if that is not the case, and when you are ready to focus on disrespect then try a few things:

-be respectful to your child (don’t call them mean names, belittle them, etc).

A lot of parents don’t realize that they are being disrespectful to their child. This doesn’t mean we treat child on same level authority-wise as adults, but think about would we talk to our friends or spouse the same way we address our kids? If we can talk nicer to them they will often respond nicer back.

-expect respect, and correct them by having them try again in a better way. You model/say what the child should say instead of what they did say and have them repeat it back. [See article on error correction]

-provide a consequence for constant disrespectful behavior [see article on consequences]

If disrespect continues then you might need to figure out what’s gone wrong with your relationship with your child/teen and work on that. In order for children to follow directions and be respectful, etc parents MUST have a good relationship with their child. Relationship is the MOST important thing!! Many teens will say their parents are mean to them or disrespectful so they refuse to listen to them. Or they feel their father (for example) doesn’t have a relationship with them so why would they listen to him. If you don’t have a good relationship with your child work on that relationship FIRST before expecting better behavior or more respectful responses. 

Consequences and Discipline

kid in time out consequences

When disciplining a child the most important thing is that they LEARN THE LESSON, not receive the punishment. Does that make sense? Yes, they should receive a consequence, but we need to make sure they actually learned the lesson so they don't repeat the undesired behavior.

You also want to make sure the consequences make the most sense so that the lesson is learned.

Natural Consequences and Logical Consequences: 
Natural Consequences are the BEST because they are most likely to happen and tend to teach the best lesson. Logical Consequences are consequences that make the most sense, sometimes based on what the natural consequence would be if allowed to happen.
Here's an example: If you leave your bike out in the rain, it will likely rust. (or get stolen!). So if your child doesn't put his/her bike away- they should lose the privilege of being able to ride their bike (for a day or week perhaps). Another example: if you are mean to the cat, the cat won't want anything to do with you. So if the child is teasing/hitting the pets, then maybe they can't play with them for a day. If the natural consequence does actually occur this can be a very good lesson for the child (or spouse!).
So try to make the "punishment fit the crime" as they say, if possible. Also check with the child to see if they learned the lesson. "So honey you can't play with your toys today because you didnt clean them up yesterday. I hope you make better choices tomorrow", or "So what did you learn from not being able to play with your friends today? Yes you need to play nicely with them if you want a play date."

When you can't use the above consequences: (and other info)



  • Take away a privilege that they care about. (This will vary depending on the child and child's age. TV, computer, wii, video games, ipad, cell phone, car use for teens, sporting event, trip to a special place that was planned, etc). Even if they say they don't care- they usually still do. Make sure they realize the consequence too. For example they lose going to baseball. So take them to baseball practice but they can't participate. (Believe me- they will care!) If they sit home and play video games when they lost baseball practice this isn't really going to work! If they lose 5 minutes of pool time, don't let them play in the house, have them sit poolside and watch their friends/siblings play. 



  • Have them "Re-do" the behavior the correct way. "Try again" you could say when they answer you rudely. (See other post on that topic) 
  • Try Rewards- (see other blog post on that)
  • Have them earn their privileges instead of having them already available to them (like earning TV or computer time). 
  • Get creative! 
  • Discuss the lesson after/during the consequence
  • Ignore them. This is the simplest and sometimes the most effective skill. Its called "Planned Ignoring". Ignore the tantrum, ignore the negotiation, ignore the arguing, ignore the attention-seeking behaviors. You can say "Im waiting until you are calm." or "Let me know when you are ready", and turn away from them (don't laugh even if they are being hilarious!!) and wait for them to stop the behavior (or do the direction you told them to do). 
  • Don't argue! Don't negotiate! Give the direction. Remind them of the consequence. Then wait for child to do it. If they don't- they get a consequence. It's that simple! (TIP: Pre-set up a list of House Rules and Resulting Consequences so you dont have to think of a consequence in the moment, also so the child knows what to expect). 
  • Time outs - this isn't just the typical 3-5 minutes on the step or couch or corner, but also an item can be in time out (like a toy kids are fighting over can be put out of play for a few minutes or longer), child has to sit out and not participate in something (see ideas above), child isn't given attention for inappropriate attention seeking behaviors. Remember with time outs you can do one minute per age for little kids. Older kids this isn't usually used. Special needs kids- do the amount of minutes they are developmentally, or half of what their age actually is, or whatever is attainable!
  • Have the child explain why they got the time out/consequence to you, and how/what they will do differently and better next time. THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PART. This is how you can tell if they learned their lesson. I know I keep repeating this, but that's how important it is! "Yes you were in time out for hitting your sister, what should you do next time she takes your toy from you?" If the child can't come up with a response, wait and repeat the question so they don't just get away with saying "I dont know". Then if they genuinely don't know, throw out some suggestions and have them pick the right response. If possible act it out/role play the situation too. (With older kids (3-7 yr olds), little kids probably won't be able to do this(2-3 yr olds). 

Apologies: If you give your child a consequence and they beg and plead saying they are sorry. You should NOT give in, however acknowledge they are sorry, but still give a consequence (after all if you were to do something wrong at work, you might say you are sorry but may still be put on probation. Or if you got a speeding ticket, you can apologize to the cop, but he will likely still give you that ticket!) "I'm glad you are sorry, but you still are getting a consequence". 

Rewards and Consequences - ideas and charts

reward chart frozen theme

Use of Rewards is extremely effective for kids, especially kids with Autism, ADHD, ODD (oppositional defiant disorder), and related issues.
Find out what motivates your child. Rewards should be very individualized, personalized, and will vary based on the child's interest, age, and availability.
Rewards do not always have to be something bought like new toys.
Rewards could be :
-extra time (like stay up late, extra time on computer/game, etc)
-extra attention (play a game with mom/dad, go out somewhere with parents, etc...)
-special choice (pick what's for dinner, pick the movie the family watches, etc)
-trip out (for ice cream, accompanying mom/dad anywhere, playground, out to eat, etc)

Ask the child what they would like to earn or work for, and then negotiate.
If the reward can match the behavior that's even better! Like if they get all their homework done early they get to play a game with mom/dad or read an extra story before bed. Or if they do their chores (like set the table for example) they can help mom make dinner, if they like).

Reward charts can be about one specific behavior you want to increase, or used for several behaviors. The amount of time it takes to fill the chart should vary. For young children it should be pretty easy and often to get rewards (daily, or several times per day for extreme behaviors you are trying to stop), for pre teen kids usually weekly works, for teens, it should take longer to get rewarded (rewards for teens might be getting or using a cell phone, access to the family car, going on a trip/school event, things like that.)

Reward charts are super easy to make, print out, or even buy. Here are some of my favorite sites to find pre-made reward charts...
Super nanny reward charts  - info on how to make/use
Printable SuperNanny reward charts
Free printable reward charts
This site has alot of different types of charts
Chuck E Cheese Rewards - can't afford much? Use these Chuck E Cheese reward charts to get free tokens to play!

Types of reward charts:
Earn tokens/points/stickers to get to a goal (like need 10 stars to get reward)
Move along a track/up a chart/numbers to get to top/goal (move up from 1 to number 10 to earn reward)
Earn puzzle pieces to put entire puzzle together (earn the picture that is on the puzzle, or something else)

Opposite of a reward chart- a consequence chart could be losing tokens for misbehavior, or lose other things the child has/likes (take away a favorite toy, perhaps). I only suggest this method when you are trying to extinguish a behavior, not replace it with something else and rewards aren't working. Positive rewards are better, but you can try this strategy if that's not working or not possible with the type of behavior you are working on...

It's the "X" out the letters strategy.
For example a child keeps asking to go to the store when you already said No or Not now. Or a child keeps hitting or keeps doing something you want them to stop doing. A creative strategy I have used is to X out letters to something the child wants. For example I was working with a child who wanted to play with trains. I told him we have to do this and that first, then we can play trains. He kept asking me and I got really frustrated telling him same answer. So I wrote the word "TRAINS" on a white board, and told him every time he asks me I will X out a letter. If there are any letters left when we finish the work we were doing then we would play trains, if not, we wouldn't. After losing two letters, he got it and I never had a problem with that again! Another child I worked with wanted to go to the Pool but wasn't listening to what I was asking him to do- he kept screaming/making noises to be silly/clapping loudly for no reason, etc. So I drew 5 little pools on a paper, and I told him every time he does the screaming/misbehavior I would X out a pool. Once all the pools were gone, he couldn't go to the pool. He lost the pool one time (we used this method several times) and was usually pretty good after losing one X or two. Ive seen teachers use this method if the class is supposed to have a fun party and they are acting up that day (too excited or whatever). The teacher writes PARTY on the board, and every time the students are talking/not listening, etc she would X out a letter. They didnt want to lose that party so it was a good reminder to not get all the letters X'd out!


mom asking child about lying


If your child lies alot it can be counter productive to ask him "Did you do 'thus and so'?" and then when he says "no" you punish him for lying and he will never admit to the truth. Its often more helpful to just say "I saw you do (whatever it was), so your consequence is..." or "I heard you did..." and then give a consequence or warning. If you really don't know if the child did something or not it may be helpful to ask them, but kids who lie constantly when you (or another witness) KNOW they did it, its usually easier to just not give them even an opportunity for lying and just move to the consequence for the behavior.