Do your children talk back? Of course they do. That’s normal and, according to a new study, good for development, too.
Psychologists at the University of Virginia have published research that suggests children who act sassy or mouthy are, in fact, developing healthy behavioural practices that will help to lead them down the path to success.
Basically, children who learn to define the rules for themselves, who establish and stick to their own boundaries even if it means upsetting those in charge (that’s you, parents) with a protruding tongue or a mumbled swear, are preparing themselves for the realities of the dog-eat-dog world we live in.
It’s not entirely surprising to hear that the ability to say “no” and assert your will is an important life skill—whether it’s in standing up to a bully at school, or negotiating a raise in your annual review—but it does raise some parenting questions. Namely, “does this mean we should be encouraging our children to talk back?”
Now that’s a scary one, but you can trust your parenting intuition; the answer, of course, is no.
“It’s important for children to let people know what their point of view is, because those who can’t might be vulnerable,” explains Kathy Lynn, a parenting speaker and author from Vancouver, B.C. “But it’s also important to be done in a way that’s polite. It isn’t necessary to be rude or nasty to simply assert your will.”
The trick, so says Lynn, is to encourage dialogue, not rudeness, and to lead by example. This might mean keeping your cool while being berated by a 3-year-old who is making a passionate if not so logical case for a dinner of cupcakes—sounds easy, but damn if the little tyke doesn’t know how to push your buttons.
“Just because a child has a point of view or disagrees or wants something, that doesn’t mean they get it, but it should mean they get to ask for it,” says Lynn. “But then it’s up to the parent to look back at the child and say, ‘I hear what you’re saying and I appreciate it, but you need to know why that can’t happen today.'”
If a calm discussion doesn’t work, Lynn advises to simply end it. “There’s no point in trying to have a conversation with somebody who’s yelling, because they can’t hear you anyway,” she says.
Simply turn away…or start shooting video, like Linda did.