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Should your children be allowed to talk back to you and other adults? Not only should they be allowed to, they should be encouraged to. Your task is to teach them to talk back responsibly and effectively. Your children should be encouraged to tell you when they are angry with you, when they think you are unfair, when they feel you are being unreasonable, and so on. They should be able to express any idea or feeling to you – within limits. Your child may say “I am angry with you” or “I don’t like you” but he is not allowed to tell you to go to hell. You, in turn, should stand as a good model of appropriate behavior. Sometimes, it may be necessary to directly encourage your child to express himself or talk back. For example, you may believe your child is experiencing intense feelings he seems to be suppressing, as if he is afraid to tell you. You say, “Go ahead and tell me, I want to know what you are thinking and feeling.” If this is insufficient you might say, “If you are angry with me or if you think I am unfair or unreasonable, I want you to tell me about that. Are you mad at me? Do you think I have been unfair?” At the same time, do not try to force your child to tell you what he is thinking and feeling. Your child has the right to not share his feelings with you.

He says, “I don’t want to tell you.” You say, “You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to, but I want you to know you can tell me if you want to do so.” You might go on to say, “I let you know when I am having feelings or thoughts about you, I want you to feel you can tell me when you are having feelings or thoughts about me.” Just be sure you are as reasonable and open to criticism as you profess to be.

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