Stop the Backchat!


Many parents complain about disrespectful behaviour from their children. Backchat, sarcasm, bad manners, swearing and cheekiness can be frustrating and difficult to handle.

By Dr Victoria Samuel
The Parent Support Service
Supernanny Expert

Why is he being disrespectful?

Various factors may be related to children behaving disrespectfully:

1. Being frustrated by limitations and wanting to test limits.

2. Copying the behaviour of other people around them.

3. Realising that being disrespectful gets a reaction: laughs, shouting, shock – either way it’s attention.

4. Feeling they are being treated unfairly or are not being listened to. This can particularly be the case with backchat or mumbled comments.

How to react to disrespectful behaviour
  •  Ignore minor disrespectful behaviour such as backchat or sulking. Say “I will not tolerate being talked to like that” and do not respond until your child is communicating appropriately.
  • For behaviour which is more offensive or rude, you can use the naughty-step technique. Before taking your child to the naughty step, make sure you give one warning clearly stating why the behaviour is disrespectful and not acceptable. “In our family, we don’t talk to each other rudely.”
  • When your child is rude, don’t laugh as this will give your child positive attention and encourage them to continue being rude.
  • “However much you cringe when you see or hear your child being disrespectful in public, resist the temptation to correct them in front of others.”
  • Instead, take your child aside and describe the behaviour you disapproved of and provide guidance. For example, “I noticed you ignored the librarian when she asked you to stop talking. She seemed upset by your lack of respect. Either you can act more politely or we will have to leave story-time.”
How to prevent disrespectful behaviour
  • Children learn how to respond appropriately by watching and imitating those around them. This is called modelling. The most effective way to get your child to act respectfully is to treat them with respect and also to let them see you act respectfully towards other people. Remember ‘actions speak louder than words’.
  • Let your child know exactly what behaviour is not acceptable by including statements about respectful behaviour in your house rules e.g. “No swearing”, “at dinner time, we sit nicely at the table”.
  • Teach your child social manners by giving continual, gentle reminders about appropriate communication and behaviour. When adults provide clear information about appropriate behaviour, children learn what is expected of them. For example, “When you leave a friend’s house, it’s good to say ‘thank you for having me’. People like it when you do that”. Or, “When I’m talking to someone I expect you to wait until I’ve finished before asking me a question, or if you’re finding it hard to wait you could say ‘excuse me’”
  • Pay close attention to your tone of voice, words and body language, not just with your child, but with everyone else around you as well. If your child hears you using put-downs, making snide comments, using sarcasm, swearing or shouting or sees you rolling your eyes or making faces at people, you are not modelling a respectful attitude. Be polite, courteous, considerate and well-mannered, and you will soon see such an attitude from your child.
  • Make sure that you use good manners and a respectful tone when correcting disrespectful behaviour. Firmly state your disapproval by commenting descriptively and asserting expectations. Tell your child what you want, not what you don’t want. Rather than “Cut the backchat!” say, “Jamie, I heard you being rude to me under your breath. I don’t like that kind of behaviour. If you’re feeling frustrated please tell me directly.”
  • Make sure you respond positively to good behaviour. When your child behaves nicely, respond with praise, approval and affection. Every time your child uses the type of manners and behaviour you want to see more of, comment approvingly. For example, “Thank you for waiting for me to finishing talking on the phone before asking me for a drink.” Or, “I noticed that you asked your brother before taking his toy. That was very considerate”.
  • Keep an eye on the type of communication your child is exposed to. Swearing on TV, negative attitudes in video games and even disrespectful lyrics in music can all be absorbed by your child and may filter into their vocabulary and behaviour.
  • Make sure you listen to your child and enable them to give their opinion or share how they feel. A child who feels listened to is less likely to try to have the last word. You may want to try using a thought box to encourage communication.
  • Backchat is often associated with your little one’s resentment at being asked to do things she doesn’t want to do, or not getting her way. Minimise this frustration by using minimal, clear commands (avoid long lectures) and by offering choice. “Would you like to tidy your room before dinner or after?”

How to handle anger positively with your kids…


Everyone gets angry with their kids at some time or another – it’s normal – it’s healthy – it’s a fact of life. Kids know just what buttons to push and they push them! Supernanny expert Sue Atkins gives her tips on how to positively channel that anger, so that you and your family come out unscathed.

By Sue Atkins
Positive Parents
Supernanny Expert

Don’t let anger destroy you.

As a parent and as a professional parent coach, I think it helps to accept that anger is an honest emotion. It’s what you choose to do with your anger that’s important.

If you don’t express your anger and you suppress it, it can lead to frustration, resentment, bitterness, a sense of hopelessness and depression, none of which are good things for you or your children long term.

Resentment builds walls between you and your children.

So, how do you handle your anger and release your temper healthily?

Well, one way is to press your internal and imaginary “pause button” like the one on your DVD and ask yourself “What exactly am I annoyed about?” This helps you step back from the situation that you find yourself in – immediately distancing you and getting you back in control and helping to calm you down.

You will probably discover that you get wound up by the same things over and over again and this is a great opportunity to ask yourself another empowering question, “what would I like to see happen in a perfect world?” as this helps you start focusing on a new solution to your frustration. Relax and start to breathe slowly and deeply as this too takes the edge out of the anger and get very, very specific about what it is you want to see happen – this gives you clarity and direction and helps you pass this on to your children who don’t often understand what exactly it is you want them to do.

Also ask yourself “Is my attitude moving me closer to or further away from the relationship I want with my children long term?” This question takes you immediately out of the mundane and humdrum into the bigger picture to your parenting. It immediately changes your perspective which is extremely powerful and helpful.

Another positive step to take is to talk openly and honestly to your child about how you are feeling and to release your pent up emotion – you can say something like:

“I’m tired telling you this over and over again because I feel……”

“I’m angry with you because …..”

“I’m hurt because you did…..”

This teaches your child about empathy and immediately takes the emotional charge out of your own energy and frustration.

If you feel like screaming and shouting at your kids, then your own anger has been building up for a long time.

A helpful strategy to explore is talking to a mirror. Get a mirror and imagine talking to the other person as if they were looking at you in that mirror. Imagine them sitting calmly, attentively and in a relaxed state listening to you properly. Tell them exactly how you feel – pour out your heart – speak truthfully – explain all the frustration, anger, hurt or disappointment. You can even imagine a rainbow going between you bridging the gap of misunderstanding.

The important aspect of these different techniques is to get all your feelings out in a safe and healthy way.

Some people hit pillows, bounce on the bed, hit golf balls in the garden or go for a long hard walk round the block – I have even been known to go into a cupboard and have a good swear to myself! Do something physical to release your charged-up emotions. Don’t be reckless or dangerous to yourself or your child. Just step back, breathe deeply and slowly and find what suits you and experiment with it – you can even make yourself laugh after you look or sound ridiculous – which is a great way to change your state too.

Don’t be afraid to let your anger take its natural course – there’s no need to feel guilt and shame because your thoughts are your feelings in action or motion. That’s why some people describe them as e-motion.

Your anger can be a really positive opportunity to serve a purpose to find out what’s really bothering you deep down. Just stop and ask yourself “What am I so angry about?” You will get clarity from asking that question which will help you identify what you’d like to change. It’s usually something small that can make a big difference in your life and help you move forward – not stay stuck.

Once you’ve expressed your anger about the behaviour that you don’t like in your child, never use a personal vitriolic attack as it damages your child’s self-esteem, do your best to forgive your child and to forgive yourself – have a hug, say sorry and move on to learn the lesson from the experience.

Maybe you’re a person who’s been angry for a long time or a major part of your life. I call this “habitual anger” because you’ve got used to behaving in this way so it’s become a habit.

Habitual anger is trying to tell you something – ask yourself some better questions – questions that empower you and give you an insight into yourself:

  • Why am I choosing to be angry all the time?
  • What am I doing to create these situations time and time again?
  • What is it that’s making me angry?
  • Who am I really angry at?
  • What do I believe about my life that causes all these frustrations?
  • Is this the only way I can react to life?
  • What could I do differently?
  • How could I feel more in control of my life?

Habitual anger is not good for your body as it creates stress, tension and illness. So it’s really a great relief when you start to understand what’s causing it and start to make some small changes to help you feel more in control of your life generally. It’s recognising that by asking yourself better questions you can start to find some new answers.

Many women and particularly mums have been taught that to be angry was something bad and unacceptable and that to lose your temper meant you were a “Bad Person” or a “Bad Parent.” So, many Mums have learnt to feel guilty and to swallow their anger rather than express it healthily.

This is an unhealthy way to handle your anger as it can turn inwards and make you feel unhappy, helpless, stuck, depressed and generally out of control of your life. So acknowledge that it’s perfectly normal to lose your temper sometimes and find a strategy or technique that suits you to release it safely.

You are a role model for your children in everything that you do so teach them how to handle anger and frustration healthily and talk about it with them.  What better gift can you give your children?

The Naughty Step Technique


Staying calm and in control whilst your child learns her boundaries is key, and it helps to be consistent in the way you discipline her. The Naughty Step is used on the show when a child’s behaviour is unreasonable and something needs to be done…

By Supernanny Team

Using the Naughty Step

She’s done it again – that’s the fourth time this morning! If you’re exasperated by your child’s behaviour, set out some clear house rules and try putting them into force using the Naughty Step Technique. This is one way of giving her time out, giving everyone a chance to calm down and allowing your child a moment to think over what was wrong with what she did.

Keep the Naughty Mat with you when you’re out and about.

How it works:
  • When your child misbehaves or breaks one of the House Rules explain what she’s done wrong, tell her that her behaviour is unacceptable, and warn her that if she behaves in the same way again, she’ll be put on the Naughty Step. Make sure your voice remains calm, not angry, and use a low, authoritative tone.
  •  Is there a particular toy or something which is triggering the situation which you could calmly remove? Or is your child tired or hungry? See if you can help resolve her frustration and move her on to another activity or use the Involvement Technique to diffuse the situation.
  •  If she misbehaves again, immediately put her on the Naughty Step. Explain clearly why she is there and how long she must stay there (one minute per year of her age).
  • If she comes off the Naughty Step, put her back on using gentle but firm movements and keep putting her back onto the step until she realises that you’re committed to keeping her there for the agreed set time.
  • Once your child has completed the agreed set time on the Naughty Step, crouch down so you’re on the same level, use a low and authoritative tone of voice, and explain why you put her there. Ask her to apologise, and when she does, praise her warmly with a kiss and a cuddle. Say ‘thank you’, go back to what you were doing and forget about the incident.
  • If your child refuses to apologise (or does something like shouts ‘sorry’ in a way which makes you think she probably doesn’t mean it!), continue this technique until she realises that you need a proper apology. But don’t forget the kiss and cuddle at the end!
Time Out for older children

Older children will outgrow the Naughty Step, so try to cultivate in them a sense of responsibility for their actions by creating a ‘reflection room’ or ‘chill-out zone’. They can be asked to go there when they’re angry to give them time and physical space to think things over.

If behaviour is really out of control, if the Naughty Step has become more of an attention-seeking ploy, or if older children do something they really shouldn’t have done, try the One-Strike-and-You’re-Out Technique or think about some kind of toy confiscation punishment. Once disciplined, however, it is especially important to find out why your child behaved in a way which was out of character, as understanding their actions will help you to prevent it occurring again. For older children, a Video Diary might be useful in opening these lines of communication.

Don’t forget the reward!

Troubleshooting behavioural issues using the Naughty Step works best when you also make a fuss of what your child does right. Parent positively, and use a Reward Chart to reinforce spontaneous and continual good behaviour in your child.


The One-Strike-and You’re-Out Technique


As your children get older, how do you teach them what’s acceptable and what’s not? It’s in their nature to test the boundaries and it’s up to you to make sure they don’t cross the line. As used on Supernanny, One-Strike-and-You’re-Out is a useful technique to discipline older children when they push too far…

By Supernanny Team

One Strike and You’re Out

You can expect more from older children in terms of knowing what behaviour is acceptable and what isn’t. Sitting down to run through what you expect of them with your older children can’t be a bad thing, or if there’s a recurrent discipline problem, try putting some House Rules in place.

Of course, kids are kids and at some point they’re sure to test the boundaries. The One-Strike-and-You’re-Out Technique could help you discipline children who’ve outgrown the Naughty Chair, but who sometimes need to be reminded of the consequences of their behaviour.

Disciplining older children

Make sure that you and your child are both aware of what has happened and be clear on why her behaviour is unacceptable.

  • Don’t give a warning. Remove your child from the room and tell her in an authoritative voice that her behaviour is unacceptable and that she can only come back into the room once she has apologised.
  • If she comes back into the room without apologising, don’t enter into a discussion; remove her from the room again and repeat that she can come back once she’s ready to apologise.
  • Repeat this step on any subsequent attempts to re-enter the room.
  • Once your child has apologised, praise her, give her a hug and let her join in the activity again.

Before you both return to the room, it’s worth trying to find out why the bad behaviour occurred, or whether there’s something particularly worrying her. This might be difficult to answer, especially after you’ve just given her a telling off, so make a mental note that either you or your partner should try to talk through the incident with her at a later date.

If communication has hit a real low with your child, you might want to try something like the Video Diary or thought box technique to get you both talking again.

Rewards for Kids


The best rewards are time spent with family and friends. But, we’ve also given you some ideas for more tangible rewards!

Ages 3-7

Kids in this age group do better with immediate rewards. So, even if you’re going to take them on an outing as a reward, have something available to give them to represent the outing such as a coupon with “Out to Ice Cream” written on it.

  • Stickers
  • Crayons
  • Pencils
  • Markers
  • Books
  • Second Hand Store Toys (action figures, etc.)
  • Match Box Cars
  • New toothbrush
  • Books
  • Candy (Gummy Bears, Dots, etc.)
  • Doll clothes
  • Printable certificate
  • A trip to the “treasure box” (this can contain inexpensive little things like Euro store items, pencils, crayons, etc.)
  • Sticker on a sticker chart
  • An outing for a special treat such as ice cream
Ages 8-11
  • Markers
  • Pencils
  • Books
  • Little Notebooks
  • Erasers
  • Books
  • Pens
  • Hair ornaments
  • Doll clothes
  • Earn parts of a new game that will eventually make up the whole game. For example, earn one jack or ball at a time. Eventually, the child will have earned the whole game of jacks.
  • Card game
  • Printable certificate
  • A trip to the “treasure box” (this can contain inexpensive little things like Euro store items, pencils, crayons, etc.)
  • Earn a play date
  • Earn a sleepover
  • Pick a favourite meal
  • Out to eat with family member
  • Extra computer time
  • Extra TV time
  • Go to a movie
  • Go get ice cream
  • Pick a special game to play with a family member like a board game, video game, sports game
  • Go for a walk/hike with a family member
  • A trip to the park
  • Parent will do child’s chores for a time period
Ages 12+
  • Markers Pencils
  • Books
  • Little Notebooks
  • Journals
  • Erasers
  • Pens
  • Hair ornaments
  • Books
  • A song for mp3 player
  • A CD
  • New computer/video game
  • Card Game
  • Printable certificate
  • Earn a sleepover
  • Pick a favourite meal
  • Out to eat with family member
  • Extra Computer Time
  • Extra TV time
  • Go to a movie
  • Go get ice cream
  • Extra time added to curfew
  • (For drivers) Additional time to use the car
  • Pick a special game to play with a family member
  • Go for a walk/hike with a family member
  • Parent will do child’s chores for a time period