A Book on “Backtalking” and trying it out on DVD night

My oldest child is fun, bright, social and great at communicating. After spending a week with her all day, every day, it became clear to me that we she also had a problem with talked back. Most times where there was a move from one activity to another we got pouting and answering back.

From the Amazon marketplace emerged “Backtalk – 4 Steps to Ending Rude Behavior in Your Kids.” (283 Used & new from $0.01!) It was a light read, finished in an hour or two. It had lots of simple case studies which I found the best part of the book. The four titular steps are:

  1. Recognising the backtalking, which was easy enough
  2. Choosing the punishment, which was a little challenging
  3. Enacting the punishment, which was easy after the first implementation
  4. Disengaging, which again was easy enough

The hardest part for us was the choice of punishment. It had to be enacted right away. The case studies in the book deal most often with children older than Lucy.Their punishment is of the form “I won’t drive you to soccer practice.” Now we don’t have any activity to drive our five year old to, so we had to keep it simple. We usually give her a timeout in her room (minor infringement) or in a bathroom (major rudeness). Once we sent her to bed early. Once was all it took.

The first time we had an opportunity to engage on this was about forty-five minutes before bedtime. Lucy answered back to Jean about brushing her teeth, which she had to do before watching the Tuesday night DVD. We sent her straight to bed, no toothbrushing but more importantly no DVD. This was extremely strong punishment for Lucy. We sent her to her room and she started yelling at top volume once she realised that her little brother was now watching the DVD without her. She could hear it playing in the other room.

Lucy has a strong, clear and resonant voice. It is by far the strongest in the house. Her quiet voice wakes you up. Her whisper is a stage whisper that would be able to be be heard clearly in the back row of a theatre if she ever took to the stage. When she yells the sound distorts in your ears. It is physically painful, even from a distance. (She used to use this ability as a weapon to make her little brother cry.) We have a system to deal with her screams without us going nuts – we time the yelling. When you time the yelling it engages the geek brain – you wonder how long she can keep it up. This time was only nine minutes. That nine minutes was a small price to pay. She has not answered back to the same level since.

Lucy halfway to grumpy

There are still minor reoccurrences, but we found positive feedback works better for reducing these (see the whining post). “Backtalk” doesn’t talk about positive feedback, it is purely negative. I figure it is most useful when things are bad. With positive feedback I look for a time when she does something the first time I ask, however minor the task is. Then I can say, “Hey, you did that the first time, that’s great.” If I get good behaviour for a morning I’ll give her a Hershey Kiss and point out the good things she has done in the morning. I don’t tie the chocolate to a specific action, just if I think her behaviour has warranted it. This has worked well. She does things the first time I ask at least 70% of the time. She’s also understanding more about the role of parents to enforce rules to help her learn better behaviour.

[Note: we use Hershey Kisses because they are horrible and I won’t touch them. We tried with a giant bag of M+Ms which are less ghastly but I ate them all in a day or two.]



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