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The Art of Talking Back

The Art of Talking Back

One of my daughters, might have had the advantage of most lawyers at age two. By the time she turned ten, she could befuddle my brain to the place where not only did I forget the point of my argument, I couldn’t even remember for which side I fought. As parents we did our best to refine this less-finer aspect of her character—the art of dispute.

It was not easy.


The Apostle Paul, addressing the much bigger issue of Israel’s rejection and God’s justice, reminds his readers of our propensity to bicker and want our own way.

“But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” Romans 9:20 (NIV).

“But you said if I cleaned my room, I could stay up later,” she whined. It sounded like an echo in my ear.

“Why does she get to have more chocolate?”

“How come he gets to watch TV?”

“Why do I have to do the dishes? It’s his turn.”

Talk-back is unacceptable to God, preposterous, like clay to a potter.

“Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’”

The word Paul used in Romans 9 is “plasma”, the same word from which our word plastic originates. If my grandson’s green playdough dog could look up at my grandson’s face and ask, “Why do I have to bark? Why can’t the cat do it?” it would be shocking to say the least.

How can we encourage our children’s honest questions but discourage disrespect, criticizing, and argument?

Tone. Asking for a respectful tone is important. When children’s questions are laced with demand or insolence, addressing the manner outweighs the need to answer the question. You might try saying, “Ask that again, and this time use a nicer tone.” Our children will learn much about asking God life’s hard questions by the way we allow them to ask us questions.

Approach. Teach children there are right times to ask polite questions and times when immediate obedience without demands is required. Parent’s commands sometimes entail a child’s safety and uncontentious response is vital. Difficult discussions can be redeemed by choosing a later less strained teaching moment. “Let’s talk about what happened today,” might come while being tucked into bed.

Motive. Children question when they don’t like something, when a feeling of injustice is served, or when it doesn’t make sense to them. Help them distinguish their tangled emotions. You may need to be the question-asker to discover underlying motives. Set the example by phrasing questions with kindness but firmness.

Children who are trained to listen and reply with respect will also learn to transfer deference to other authorities. As our children grow, arguments morph, and they become more complex. A pattern set early bestowing appreciation and value to others will reap rewards for a lifetime.

By: Sylvia Schroeder serves as Women’s Care Coordinator at Avant Ministries. Mom to four, grandma to 13, and wife to her one and only love, she enjoys writing about all of them. Find her blog at When the House is Quiet. Like her Facebook page or follow her on twitter.

Join us at for our parenting blog each Monday-Friday and for info about the Just 18 Summers novel.


  1. Great stuff, as always, Sylvia

  2. Great reflections for parents! Wish I had been better at it when I was raising my 4 boys!!

  3. Such wise advise. I love that you are using your life and experience to such great use.
    Love to you,


  1. The Art of Talking Back - When the House is QuietWhen the House is Quiet - […] Read the Full Article at Just18Summers […]

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