Comments 9

  1. I think there is a specific time and place and specific language that is considered talking back. If your child as a toddler or even say five, six, etc tells a stranger to fuck off that is one thing, but if they are saying “you are a stranger and this is my personal space” that is not talking back. In my opinion people fail to realize that children are people too regardless of their size, age, and assumed mental capacity. I think more children should be taught the “fine art” of talking back, by doing so they are protecting themselves, their personal space, defining their boundaries. Being able to voice to a stranger their feelings is important, even if the stranger is offended. Hell some adults don’t even have defined boundaries, so YES, we should teach our children to “talk back.”

  2. I am still waiting for my child to TALK TO ME.

    Beyond that, I think you can teach your children how to establish boundaries with strangers, respectfully, without teaching them to be pushovers OR to be rude, snotty little brats with no sense of propriety. In fact, I would bet most people do that, i.e., if someone who is a stranger greets your child at church (or temple, or wherever), I doubt the taught response is to tell that person *eff* off. Creepy guy in the parking lot of the grocery store probably doesn’t get the same courtesy, but *still*, there is a set of checkpoints, I think, starting with: I don’t talk to strangers.

    That’s not rude. It’s the truth, but it opens the door to acceptably allow the child to escalate into a royal, jumping up and down, screaming fit if that person tries to belabor the point.

    Now, if it is someone just wanting to pinch those cheeks, there is a way to teach your child to respectfully react to those situations without making him or her look like a rude, ill-mannered heathen, or making you look like the world’s worst mother.

    “I would prefer that you not . . . . ”

    I think the key there is that if Cate tells someone that she would rather they not touch her, pinch her cheek, pat her head, invade her space, what I *do* have to do is to serve as her reinforcement. If someone isn’t willing to comply with her stated wishes, then I need to make sure that they understand that her wishes are to be respected by them.

    That they are to treat my daughter with the same respect that they want for themselves.

    That message is not going to matter a whit if my child is exhibiting no respect for the situation in the first place, and, I think, it will make it that much more difficult for me to tell her to treat people the way she would like to be treated if she is treating people like a little brat.

    We don’t always have the luxury of telling someone in a position of authority (or seemingly in a position of authority) to take a flying leap. Why would I teach my child that it’s okay to do so when she is a child?

  3. My children haven’t yet had the opportunity to interact with strangers when I’m not there. My oldest goes to preschool, but his grandma is also a teacher there. So that’s not really “the world” yet. This is something I will have to consider very soon. Thanks!

  4. When I watched this I remember as a preschool teacher having a parent who was very concerned because I was a “stranger” to their child, how did they know I was a safe person. A good question really so I had to make sure they had references and knew I had a background check and fingerprints conducted. Parent volunteers coming into our classroom were essentially “strangers” but is this an exception for children? If it is only someone who sits down at my dinner table then basically everyone at my child’s school or their friend’s parents – they are strangers. If I tell my kids to not talk to strangers and there’s this blanket statement with a million and one exceptions. What happens if they get lost and they need to tell a stranger they are lost so they can find mommy? If a police man comes to the door or a fireman that is a stranger to my child but someone I need them to speak to for their safety. I think helping my child learn to trust their “gut” and make good choices on who and who not to talk to is probably a better choice, in my parenting book and for my family. Children need to learn how to use their common sense with examples, role modeling and parent conversations not just do not do this or talk to this person. I get nervous when we throw blanket statements out there and have a million exceptions – that can easily confuse s a child and can be just as harmful. Talking back and talking to strangers really are two different things. Is there anything wrong with someone saying hello to a child or “don’t you look pretty today” and my child saying hello back or thank you? If we take away neighborly communication and the sense of community where this is acceptable to not talk to strangers ever no matter what and children look down when someone talks to them or does not answer because they are afraid – that isn’t good either.

    Children should be taught to say no to a stranger, tell someone or ANYONE they know that something does not feel good, not to touch them, look at them, talk to them, etc. A child telling an adult how they feel or what they like or do not like should be encouraged. Is this talking back? I’ve always thought of talking back to mean: I tell my kids to go get their shoes on and they tell me no. In terms of talking back to a stranger I think this might mean: An older woman in the grocery store telling my child to put something back on a shelf at the grocery store and my child telling the older woman that she is not their boss.

    Children can talk back to a stranger in a polite way without being rude or disrespectful and each child and adult has personal space and teaching a child to say, “This is my personal space and I am not comfortable with you in it,” is something my children know how to say and what it means. They say it to each other!

    Just my two parenting cents – not that anyone asked. =)

  5. Probably too late to this party but I have a “hypothetical” for you Moms.

    I frequent a dog park. The small dog park and the two access gates face the parking lot. The large dog park has a wide walkway next to the big dog park but the majority of the park is “behind” the small dog park. The big dog park is pretty big, so big in fact you can’t see well into the small dog park (even for those with laser enhanced eyesight!).

    At night a Mother drops her child off in the small dog park (I and several other people guess that she’s between 4 and 5 years old), while she goes into the large dog park.

    The child runs around screaming (dogs chase her), she hits dogs, she tries to let them out of the gates, she throws things at them etc. In addition to her harassing the dogs she has fallen so hard, face first, that both of her shoes flew off, she leaves the park and walks into the parking lot. Her Mother, who believes that she is watching her, has not responded to these events because she in fact is NOT watching her. She is a prime target for becoming a victim.

    She has been asked to not hit dogs, “Please don’t hit my dog, he doesn’t like it”, to which she will reply “Yes he does” and continues to hit the dog. Every interaction that I have had with her or witnessed is in this same vein. I am all for confident kids, however in my experience, the most confident and “mouthy” (and I truly mean that in a good way) children when not around their parents generally are more shy. In my opinion, she has no boundaries, especially for her age. I am really worried about her safety.

    As parents, what is your advice for this situation?

  6. GreenInOC, you shouldn’t be worried about someone molesting this little girl. You should be worried about her suffering the effects of being totally neglected by her mother (at least at the dog park), and about the fact that she is being abusive to these dogs with no repercussions. The chances of another person hurting her are ridiculously slim, in part because there are people like you there who are, whether you should have to or not, looking out for her. (And frankly, that’s true of most children in situations that are commonly considered prime abduction/abuse danger.) The chances that one of those dogs will get fed up and bite her are pretty good, though. Or that she will get hit by a car driven by someone who does not see her. Her mom needs to either bring her into the big dog park or find alternate arrangements. If you’re not comfortable talking to the mom directly, call the cops next time it happens. (And I do NOT say that lightly. I think it is very, very rare that people should call the cops on parents, because we never know the circumstances. But this is NOT OK.)

  7. I don’t think what you are talking about is “talking back”. Twenty years in a classroom and I can tell you that kids who talk back are universally loathed by teachers and other kids alike. Speaking up for yourself when you are in danger or when the need to call attention to something is vital is not talking back and is generally appreciated and a good idea. There is a difference between having a big mouth and being safe/self aware.

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