Written by Doctor G

Back-talking and Eye-Rolling

My 8 year old has started talking back and rolling her eyes. Isn’t this early? And how do I make it go away?!

Allison, in Casper, WY

I get asked about this at least once a week at work. Eye rolling and back-talking are signs that your child is trying to establish their independence from you and your ideas. What a healthy developmental stage. Doesn’t it just make you want to strangle her?

Resist that urge! And don’t bother blaming her friends. She’d have figured this out eventually. I’m fairly sure that even kids raised by wolves with no access to media or other human children eventually try talking back to their wolf parents.

Healthy or not, you are right to label this as unacceptable behavior. She doesn’t need to agree with everything you say (those days are sadly long over for most of us) but she does need to express her opinions respectfully, every time. Which is going to take a lot of practice.

First sit with her, and explain what is bugging you. She may genuinely not realize what she is doing. Between you, come up with a way you can let her know that her words or attitude are not acceptable. Then let her know that if you give her that signal and she doesn’t repeat herself in a respectful way, there will be a consequence. Maybe the next block of friend time she has will be cancelled. Or she will need to clean a room in the house of your choosing. Or she’ll have to write “You’re the very best mommy in the whole wide world in 13 languages. Whatever makes sense to you.

Then, just like with any behavior change, our hard parenting work is to be consistent.

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