Excerpt from Backtalk by Audrey Ricker, Carolyn Crowder, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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4 Steps to Ending Rude Behavior in Your Kids

by Audrey Ricker, Carolyn Crowder

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    Feb 1998, 176 pages

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Backtalk can ruin a person's chances for a productive, happy life, because a child who gets away with it at home will undoubtedly try backtalking outside the home, losing respect of friends, friends' parents, teachers, and, later, employers. At home he can be ostracized by parents who don't know how else to deal with him. He could even be sent away by adults who have no idea of how to deal with the behavior. At school, he could become known as a difficult child whom adults and children avoid. Later, on the job, his backtalk could keep him from getting and keeping promotions.

Parents are not the only household members affected by backtalk; younger or less dominant siblings become intimidated. They soon learn how to respond in kind, and backtalk becomes the model of communication in the home. If backtalk is allowed to continue unchecked, the atmosphere in the home will become hostile, unsettling, and discouraging for the whole family. And a few backtalkers in the classroom can ruin a teacher's ability to teach.

Parents can learn to distinguish between backtalk and respectful disagreement. Autocratic families may be eager to see all disagreement from children as backtalk. Permissive families accept the verbal abuse as legitimate communication. Assertive communication is respectful while backtalk is never respectful. Backtalk includes not only disrespectful words, but a disrespectful tone and disrespectful body language as well. Any or all of these manifestations of backtalk should be addressed by parents.


Backtalk will help parents learn how to have a backtalk-free home. It's normal to feel hurt, angry, and disappointed by children's backtalk. A constructive approach to dealing with these feelings is provided here. Unlike other child-rearing books, which encourage you to view backtalk as healthy communication, this book will treat backtalk for what it is -- disrespectful behavior -- and teach parents how to handle backtalk when it happens. Here is a chapter-by-chapter overview:

In Part One, "What, Why, When, and How," we explain, among other things, what backtalk is, why it has become an epidemic, when it became legitimized by child-rearing experts, and how it affects families, schools, and the backtalkers themselves. Part I also explains what you can do about backtalk, why you must do something, when you should do it, and how.

In Chapter 1, "Frank Talk About Backtalk," we discuss the pleasures of the backtalk-free home, the nature of backtalk, and reasons for dealing with it in a timely fashion. This chapter shows you how to identify this problem and explains briefly which conditions in our culture, especially the growth of mainstream media, have helped backtalk reach epidemic proportions in the past few years. Chapter 2 explains the Four-Step Program for dealing with backtalk, discussing the steps in detail and providing a variety of case histories.

In Part Two, "Practice," we provide instructions for implementing the steps for dealing with backtalk. In this section we also discuss and validate attitude problems adults often have in implementing the Four-Step Program. We cover issues you may encounter as you apply the four steps to children of different ages, including college age and adult children. You'll learn how to deal with teachers, caregivers, psychologists, and adult relatives who may disapprove of your stand on backtalk, and we'll also examine the unique backtalk problems faced by single parents and working couples. We'll discuss how to deal with your child's backtalking friends, and what to do about other external sources of backtalk including movies and television. Part Two also includes a chapter on creating and maintaining a backtalk workbook in which you can track the effectiveness of the Four-Step Program and keep a list of solutions that work for you. Finally, we'll recommend support groups to join and types to avoid, and we'll tell you how to start one of your own.

Copyright © 1998 by Audrey Ricker, Ph.D. and Carolyn Crowder, Ph.D.

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