I Refuse To Tolerate Backtalk, And My Children Know It

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Eight years ago, I was standing with my 2-year-old while we were waiting for his older brother and sister to be dismissed from school. I dreaded this time of day. He would turn into the biggest brat because he didn’t understand why I wouldn’t let him run and shout in the very open, very quiet hallway. How mean of me, I know.

“You need to be quiet and still. The kids are still learning,” I would say. It was a constant fight. He wouldn’t say anything back; he would just keep testing out his asshole behavior so everyone got to witness me trying to contain him for 10 minutes (which felt like 10 hours) each day.

However, there was one day when he did use his words, and by that I mean he tried his hand at backtalk instead of his usual flopping his body around as he tried to break free from my grasp. He turned to me and said, “Mommy, I don’t like you.” Backtalk at its finest, and even though he was only a toddler, I was pissed.

“Mommy doesn’t like you either when you don’t listen and talk mean. I told you to behave,” I said firmly. He stopped and stared at me.

Maybe to some it seemed too harsh, but I cannot tolerate backtalk. It makes me see red. His behavior changed drastically (for the better) during pickup time because having his mother tell him she didn’t like him felt like a huge punishment (at the time). It wasn’t a permanent fix, of course. He and his two siblings still practice the art of backtalk, even though they know what it does to their mama.

Fast-forward eight years, and I am standing in my kitchen yelling at my son, “If you are going to say something that makes you sound like a jerk, don’t say it.” I don’t even think my children can comprehend this sentence, especially when I am hissing it because I’m so pissed off.

I have no patience for my kids talking to me, or anyone else, like they are disrespectful brats who have no regard for anyone’s feelings. They know better than that. I have a no-bullshit attitude regarding this subject, and by that I mean I get really mad and let them have it. Give them a dose of their own medicine, I suppose. It just puts me over the edge every time.

I am a firm believer that we teach people how to treat us. This doesn’t mean people treat you beautifully every second of every day; it just means, for the most part, they know what they can get away with when it comes to you and what makes you breathe fire. Our kids are no exception.

I have tried ignoring my kids, but it doesn’t work for me (or them). In their minds, they think, Oh great, Mom didn’t say anything while I was acting like a dickweed. Let me try this out some more. Let me push her further. This has been the case especially when I ignore their sassiness in public. Things would spiral out of control, and I just felt it made me look like I was condoning their asshole-ness, so you bet I discipline them in public for it, and yes, it does include getting very close to their eyeballs and raising my voice.

My kids know if they are going to treat me a certain way, they will get treated a certain way. And while this does cause dirty looks, I would rather someone give me the stink-eye for disciplining my child than for allowing them to talk to me and others like they are a dirty dishrag. You must give respect to get respect.

Their punishment has always involved me turning into the Wicked Witch of the West and taking things away from them immediately. It used to be dessert, playdates, and favorite toys. We have now graduated to screen time which has me taking their precious cell phones.

I have certain triggers — they know this. If they say certain things in certain ways, I take those suckers, and they are mine for a day or two. No exceptions. My least favorite is when I am asking them to do something they know they should have done, and they interrupt me mid-sentence with a huge, “I know, Mom!” Oh, hell no. This usually makes their phone disappear for a week.

I won’t lie: It’s hard as fuck to make it through the week like this. I often regret it and want to give their phones back, and occasionally I do if I feel like they have learned their lesson. But generally, I’m not giving them back even if they butter me up real good with an “I love you so much, and I’m so sorry, Mom.”

And even though they think I am too strict with this punishment (adults have even commented that perhaps I shouldn’t be quite so hard on them), they still dabble in rude backtalk. They are human, they get mad, they lash out, and sometimes I think they are naturally testing boundaries.

And so it will be a struggle for us until they fly the coop, I am sure. In a way, I do understand it. When I am not at my best and acting out and someone asks me to do their laundry or help them find the mate to their shoe, I usually backtalk too. But the way I see it, this is one of the perks of motherhood, and I am not giving it up any time soon.

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