“How *dare* you talk back to me young lady,” I said with tightly pursed lips, dripping with venom. Who do you think you ARE?
I posted that phrase on social media not long ago and I truly lost count of the hundreds of people who had grown up hearing those words when they told their parent/s how they really felt about something.
Maybe we’ve even said it to our own kids, or maybe we’ve simply thought it.
In any case, it really seemed to strike a chord, so I wanted to unpack the topic of “backtalk” a little more in this love note to you today.
When a child “talks back” to us, a volcano of thoughts & emotions have the potential to come spewing forth, many of which mimic the first sentence of this email. There is so much buried within that tiny sentence.
We may feel deeply offended.
We may feel outraged.
We may feel disrespected.
We may think: “where have I gone wrong?”
Or…maybe, just maybe, under the surface of those conditioned adult reactions (meaning that’s how we’ve been told we *should* feel about a child’s backtalk),our inner child feels a deep sense of rage because if she wasn’t allowed to use her voice as a little girl, then why on earth should her own child be allowed to do so?
Now, I don’t think most of us are thinking that consciously. In fact, unconscious thoughts like these are usually the driving force behind most of our parenting triggers.
But what if our wounded inner child who didn’t get a say in much, if anything at all, growing up views our (actual) children voicing their opinion as completely UNFAIR.
And we react accordingly by acting out of that place of an inner child who was never allowed to have a voice.
Now, you may be thinking…I don’t care how wounded my inner child is. A child *still* shouldn’t be encouraged to speak disrespectfully to me (or anyone for that matter).
I wholeheartedly agree. 🙂
But the lens through which we’re viewing our child’s “backtalk” or “sass” determines precisely how we respond to them. Is our child’s strong tone of voice or utter disregard for our request an (emotional) punch in the face of our voiceless inner child?
OR…Is our child’s sassy attitude communicating an unmet need that we, as the adult with more power and resources, could help support?
(Side note: not *all* of our parenting triggers point to unresolved inner child wounds – sometimes we’re hangry, sometimes our hormones are all jacked up, sometimes we had a crappy night’s sleep…I just want to point out that this is a nuanced conversation and didn’t want to oversimplify it by chalking everything up to more inner child work). 🙂
How we respond (or knee-jerk react) to our kids is rooted in how we perceive them…are they trying to personally attack us and make life harder on us (I know it feels that way some days when you’ve asked the 874 times to brush their teeth), or are they just having a hard time? Are they trying to torture us, or are they acting in a developmentally appropriate way? How we internally answer that question determines the outcome of these types of conflicts every parent has with her child.
So, the next time your child “talks back,” ask yourself this: am I, the adult parent, personally offended by this…OR, does my inner child, who never had a voice, find this to be wildly unfair?
If the answer is the latter, then it’s time to start tending to that childhood wound where your voice wasn’t welcome. Honor that child inside and remind her that her voice DOES matter. It’s needed in this world. It’s precious, holy, and worthy of being used.
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