Listen To The Child That Talks Back

Very sad to read so many mums agreeing with the Autocratic method of telling kids to do as they are told with the assumption that their children are so dumb to know any better. Children are the product of their parents and come to us with wisdom, intuition and a sense of themselves. They are not in training to be adults. They are children and are living in the NOW. Let’s respect that to begin.

Of course children are going to chat back, it’s called thinking for themselves. We should welcome this time. I read a recent parent blog about parents paying to send their children to a course that provides THINKING SKILLS, yet when our kids think and talk back, we cannot bear it ! Very confusing !

Perhaps when your child talks back to you, as one mum said she reasons with her child. Good for you ! When our children talk back, it’s so important as parents we talk back to them in a loving way and communicate with them effectively. This teaches them good communication! Answer their questions, reason with them and teach them. You are their first and foremost teacher, it’s your job to teach them. You don’t need to put up with rudeness or disrespect but you do need to address it in a loving way. "When you talk to me by raising your voice, it hurts my feelings. Please don’t do this. I am happy to talk with you and I don’t like being yelled at".

When children hear your feelings have been hurt, they are less likely to do it and more likely to apologise. However, when mums yell back, thus starts the yelling match and no body wins, no body teaches (Oh yes, parents have just taught kids to yell lounder!).

Don’t use abstract words like "I don’t like it when your so rude" – Rude is a label and can mean many things, instead spell out their behaviour "I don’t like it when you walk away as I am talking to you" tells the child excactly what he or she has done and is more mindful about what is upsetting you. "I am really disappointed that you did not ring me to tell me you were going to be so late. I was so worried about you" rather than "You are never going out again and you have no respect for not calling me blah blah blah"

"You" messages are very damaging and label and blames children – this type of labelling effects a child’s self-esteem, distances you from the child who begins to dislike you, and is ineffective in making the child do what the child does not want to do.

So try LISTENING to your child rather than constantly talking. It really does help! To listen mean to actively tune into what the child is really saying and no asking questions one after the other. Listening means to tune into the child’s real feelings and to empathise with them. Listening means to suspend your own agenda and listen to what your child is really telling you.

After all you want to nurture your relationship with your child whilst she or he is growing up to think enough to answer back to you. If you shut your child off, your child will never tell you anything and as the teen years approach you will hear yourself complaining to your friends "he never tells me anything" "I don’t know what he is doing or thinking or where he goes" etc. So start whilst your children are younger so that you will build a strong loving bond of trust and many loving conversations toward harmony and peace. In the process of talking and listening you will be teaching your child to think, become empathic young people and to relate to you in a loving way.


Parent as a Friend - Where do we draw the Line

Most children are not keen to accept parents as their friends or confidante due to the restrictive or limited topics of discussion which we (as parent) are keen / comfortable to embark on. Even with so called "comfortable " topics, they must also be of importance, not simply an offhand nitty gritty topics.

For eg, a nine year old asked her mummy which delivery mode does she prefer – normal or via operation (ceasarian)? No hesitancy for mummy to answer ,"Operation , of course because I am put to sleep." When the next question of "How is normal delivery done?" Many a time , mummy will either gently evade  or brush off the question by saying, " Em…perhaps when you grow up….." or "Hush! So young yet so old. You should not ask me such a question girl. For god’s sake you are only nine!" Delaying or denying clarification will not allay their curiosity but enhance it instead. It will just be a matter of time before they come upon a source of information, irregardless of its reliability , which may exposed  them to more harm than benefit. Brace yourself to explain the birthing in simple words (not necessarily to be in details) and put on a cool and straight expression. Don’t wince or gigle away when explaining because it will make your clarification to be non convincing and the child will think that you are bluffing.That will definitely hamper your subsequent communication.

Personally, I feel that embarking on such friendship with our child should ideally be done when he /she was young and not when they reach the age of pre puberty like 12 onwards because by then , most of them may have started becoming self-opinionated or seeking an identity/personality that represents them and thus not keen to open the door of "friendship" with you (parents).

Befriending our children at an early age will give us the advantage and ability to nurture their  trust and confidence to treat us as their confidante, while at the same time enabled us to firmly inculcate on the importance of their maintaining  due respect to our existence as their parents. That’s what I have established with my children and I can honestly admit to you that it has eases  my parenting path & dealings till this day.

Once, my second child (who is my older son aged 12) came to my room and asked me this, "Mum at which age will you allow me to have a steady?" Taking just a short pause to recover from this surprising question, I placed my hand on his shoulder and answered," I think from 19 onwards should be ok. Just hope that you have the means to cover the cost of managing a steady because I am pretty sure that I won’t have the means to sponsor you for that purpose since all of you will still be studying and that responsibility is of utmost importance to me to fulfill." My son nodded his head for a while, then softly said, " Ya, I understand what u mean….with their makeup, clothes and shoes, wow that will cause a big hole in my pocket right?"  I simply gave him a ruffle on the head and my young friend stood up to say , "Thanks mum" with a smile. ( For your info, my courtship started at that age and after careful consideration I believe it was quite safe to use that as a bench mark. hehe)

Whatever approach that we may wish to apply in our parenting dealings, always remember to exudes honesty, tactfulness, flexibility, sincerity and tolerance in them. Be realistic when you set an expectation  because sooner or later the child will start to recall and review the entire conversation that he has had with you and come up with their own conclusions to determine if its worth to have you as a confidante.

Parenting is a lifetime learning

Truly commendable and impressive! All of you have indeed proven to be credible parents who never ceased to do some reflections as you take within your stride dealing with the upbringing of your beloved children. Let me share with you an experience which seems to be rather funny but enlightening, when I recalled the whole incident.
Two way communication is crucial when we are dealing with PEOPLE, not just adults but children too. Dealing with my children who are aged at 15,12 & 9  have taught me the importance of diplomacy when conversing with them. I remembered months ago, my daughter came home with 3 other girls who were very pretty but tomboyish looking (sporting spiky hair styles). I was told that these girls were not from her school but got acquainted during inter zones netball tournaments. They were courteous , bubbly and cheerful but still I have this niggling feeling that there were more about these girls that meet the eyes. After they left, I admitted to my daughter that I felt something was amiss with her friends but couldn’t really put a word to it. Guess what happened next?
She laughed aloud and patted my thigh as she explained that these girlfriends of hers were actually "butchs". Of course I was alarmed by her admission and questioned her wisdom for engaging in such friendships. Instead of answering me, she asked me to honestly tell her what was my main concerns and worries? Well I admitted my reservation to her befriending these kind of girls because I feared that she may be inclined to be like them and if that happens, we will all be embroiled in a complicated social issues. Well, looking straight into my eyes she said, "Mum do you trust me enough to have the faith that I am sensible enough to decide things for myself?’ She further explained that generally these "butchs" will never impose/force their intention onto others. She went further to assure me that despite being "offered" to establish such relationship, the "butchs" are usually gracious in accepting a decline/refusal from people like her who  are "straight".
For the benefit of doubts, I reminded her that they are always the possibility of her being "strayed" due to prolong exposure to such influences. Releasing a sigh, she argued that as a parent I must learn to refrain from negative assumptions. Instead of worrying that she may be influenced to stray by others , why not think positively on the possibility of her changing others. Afterall, there is this saying ,"It takes just one person to make a difference".

True to her words, on the second week of Hari Raya, the three "butch" friends of hers came to our home but this time one of them appeared different (more feminine). Apparently, she has quitted being a "butch" for the past few months despite continuing friendship with the remaining two! When I seeked the "whys" and the "hows", my daughter simply  said , "Well, people can definitely change if only they are given the chance, courage and support to build up their will and confidence to do so."  Look who is talking?

This was just one example from the numerous encounters which I have experienced through out my parenting life that truly humbles me and urging myself to perform regular self reflection to further enhance my perspectives and credibility as a parent. WISDOM can definitely be cultivated and enhanced in our young children. How?? Engaging in regular open communication with our children irregardless of their age.

Glad to come across this article

Hiya Skippy, thanks for sharing, as always.

I am one who always urges my friends to seek their child/children opinions instead of just making decisions for them.  I do that with my 3 yo boy and most times I get comments like "why are you asking him, what/how would he know, you siao ah, no need to ask him, you are his mother, etc"  I do believe in respecting him even though he is only 3, cos I believee that he would learn by example.  Whenever he throw a tantrum, I would always spent time with him to find out what causes the tantrum.  As I believe he is trying to communicate and we are the ones who can’t understand him. 

Just this evening I tried to stopped a mom who was screaming at her 4 yo son when he was trying to tell her something and she didn’t want to listen. He was trying so hard to relate to her an incident and she screamed at him to shut up and she is tired of his nonsense.  He burst out crying and she was raising her hands to strike him.  I went over to her and told her not to hit him and she screamed at me to stay out of her way.  She slapped him and pulled him  very roughly to walk faster.  Passerbys staring and me trying to holding her arm to get her to calm down, her husband appeared and quickly ushered them away, calming the crying boy. 

I am still feeling sad and now.  Just wish that theres like an exam or test for people who wants to be parents.

I can't agree more. My son

I can’t agree more. My son "argue" with me so often and he is only 5yrs old. It is sometimes so difficult to reason with a child who seems to "only want things his way". But if we think at the flip side of things, it is us parents who are demanding our kids to follow our way. So bottomline is we need to learn to listen to our kids.

Progressive parenting

I am in full agreement with mummy of two and skippy. My wife and I always tell our two girls that we can only give them more freedom to make their own choices as they grow older and more mature. We had resolved right from their birth that we would both sing the same tune in parenting our girls. We seek to inculcate good habits in them so that they become ingrained in their attitudes and mannerism as they were growing up.

But we must confess that we were in denial mode for a while when our girls reached teen’s life. We were taken aback when our girls began to be more verbal in seeking for more freedom to go out with their friends. When they were kids they would always follow us but suddenly as teenagers, they change. At first, we thought they were become rebellious. Actually we are the one who needs to change our mind set with each stage of their social and emotional development. So we communicate with our girls that we now understand their needs but also remind them that they are certain cardinal rules and value principles that they have had grown up with since young which they must never compromise. So with these in mind, we try our best to let them go with more freedom as they grow in maurity. Thanks God, though not perfect they are pretty and fine.

The day when we have graduated from parenthood, we will probably be back to kindergarten in grandparenthood. But one thing we will always do : sing the same tune with our daugthers in managing their children. Hehehe!

Yes parenting is the toughtest job that needs no credentials !

Thanks mummy of 2 for your valuable feedback.

To be a nail artist you need qualifications, to be a domestic helper you need to sit courses on domestic madness and the list goes on – but to be a parent – NOTHING ! and then parents shy away from parenting workshops as they feel “people will think I don’t know how to be a parent” !! We are sometimes more concerned about what other people think than what our own needs are :)-

I do believe we have to use one method of parenting, if we sway from one to another we confuse our children.

With democratic parenting decision making is done early in their childhood so that when they get older problem solving and decision making is much sharper. It teaches parents to let go of all the power and it allows kids to problem solve and this can start at a very early age. It does not mean children get to do what they want when they want, parents are continously there to guide them. For example they partake in decision making in their daily lives, what clothes to wear, what’s their favourite food and what tasks they will do first or last etc. It really moves them into other big issues as they grow older and it is a process of growth and development. It is called the WIN-WIN method of parenting.

All the best.


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On Principles

Thanks for your comment amylqf

How true! Wayne Dwyer says “When you always do what you always did, you always get what you always get” – it is when we push our theories into practice and really believe with passion what we believe in – it is then we get what we put into a principle.

I am PASSIONATE about Democratic parenting, I worked hard at it and it works !!


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Friend or parent

Hi inonchalant

I can hear your frustration and it sounds like your teen is throwing you some challenging times. Have raised two young men, I know a few things for sure. One of them is you cannot be a friend and a parent. These are two different roles. When my kids were teenagers they had teenagers as friends, their own age group. I had mine, my own age group, so no, you cannot be friends. They don’t need another friend, they NEED a parent or parents.

Your role is to parent and through effective parenting you develop a good relationship with your child/tween or teen. They need your leadership, they need your guidance I knew where my boys were at every minute of each day. I made it my duty to find out who their friends were, I had the friends addresses and telephone numbers at hand. I knew about the books they read and the music they were into. I went for parenting courses, I went for guidance to the elders in the community when I needed to, I stormed the heavens to ensure I raised them well. There is no ‘take two’ and I knew that. I was a single mother, waited in my car at 1 a.m. outside the gates of the party they were attending or the part time job that called them to do a night shift, to pick them up and the list goes on. It was all worth it. Their safety and my sanity and the result, two very decent young men. We as mothers, have to be strong people with strong parenting intentions.

Don’t give up, do everything you can to reach your teen, I can fully empathise with you. I don’t condone disrespect in any shape or form and using language is just that. Some teeens are angry and you may need to talk to your teen to find out what he is angry about. Behaviour comes out when angry feelings are bottled up inside the child. Only talking and really listening can bring them out. When your teen learns to trust you he may share what this anger is about…it comes out in the teens language and slammed doors and pushing boundaries.

I don’t know your relationship history (or the method of parenting you are currently using) but perhaps you can go to someone for guidance. I have trust that goodness is in the heart of every teen and they are experiencing many physical and emotional changes at this time of ‘crisis identity’. They don’t take well to being labelled, judged and critised (who does). Your local library is a hive of information and books on communicating with teens. Perhaps you can consider attending a parent course… You don’t have to have a problem child to do a course, nor do you have to be a bad parent (!) it just provides you with tools and skills to go home and be more confident in your parenting. I hope my suggestions help and I wish you all the best.


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principle wise, I agree.

principle wise, I agree. but it is easier said than done.

Drawing the line

As with a lot of other parenting issues, there is always the tough decision on where to draw the line. While there is a need to discipline and set the boundary, it is also not desirable to be so extreme that you bceome an autocratic parent, whereby yours is the only voice that is heard. I believe this is an issue that many parents encounter on a daily basis.

I do not know if it is our role to be a friend to our kids, especially when they are young and do not know right from wrong, or what is appropriate behaviour. I believe in the early years, kids should be taught to respect the parents’ authority. True we can listen to them, but it does not mean we have to accept what they say. Ideally, as they grow older, we can expand the boundary and let them make some decisions. if we have taught them well, they should be making sensible decisions. Even if they do not, we should be reasoning with them, instead of forcing them to do what we want. Sometimes they have to be allowed to make their own mistakes to learm from them. Of course it depends on the kind of consequences that will occur if they make the wrong decision. As parents, we should still step in for major decisions.

Parenting must be the toughest job in the whole world. There are so many pitfalls along the way. Guess we can only try to do our best, and trust that all will be fine.


Talk back = not rude?

I  dont’ know any more. 

Are you a parent first or are you a friend?  Can you be both? Mum to a teenager who is 16 going on 21, I am not sure when or WHERE we draw that line.  You treat him as a friend, get him to confide in you, he lets go with the 4 lettered words and the funky teenager lingo they have – do you ha ha back at him or do you tell him, hey’ you are bordering on disrespect? Tone it down? Don’t talk to your mum like that?’

If you aren’t a friend, you don’t know what’s going in their lives.  If you are a parent, you gotta have lines.  The lines keep moving and blurring.

Talk back? Rude? Disrespect? A child trying to state his views? I just don;t know any more.




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