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How to Stop Arguing with Your Child

October 22, 2020 | by Adina Soclof, MS. CCC-SLP

6 ways to help you stop the cycle of arguing.

Thanks to the pandemic, we’re spending a lot of time with our families, and a lot of togetherness can be hard. Our interactions with our children are getting intense. Power struggles can ensue in the form of arguing.

Here are 6 ways to help you stop the cycle of arguing:

1. Realize it’s developmentally appropriate:

This is completely normal behavior. Oftentimes children argue just for the sake of arguing. They’re practicing their ability to assert their independence. It is a safe way to sharpen and hone that skill. It gives them a sense of control and importance. When they see that you’re bothered by it, it gives them an extra sense of feeling powerful, which is a heady feeling for a child. They can’t resist that pull so they may do it even more.

2. It’s not about being right:

Since your child is arguing to assert her independence, your son or daughter doesn’t care if he or she is correct or not. And since being right doesn’t factor into the equation, it has no relevance to you either. There is a great saying, “You can be right or you can be in a relationship.”

3. Just don’t argue:

The simplest, (although, not easy) way to stop the cycle is to stop arguing back. Refuse to engage with your child. Not only does it stop the cycle of the arguments, it also models you’re your children how to have respectful discourse with someone they disagree with. It also shows them how not to get pulled into an argument. Caveat: This will not be immediately noticeable; you might need to do this multiple times until it sinks in.

When baited, don’t respond with your counter argument. That just perpetuates the cycle.

4. Take their arguments seriously:

Another tactic is to treat your children’s argument and point of view with respect. It may seem counterintuitive, but it actually works and deescalates the tension.

For example, when children say: “You never let me do anything!”

Don’t say: “What are you talking about? What do you want to do that we don’t let you do?”

Instead say something like: “You are feeling like you want to be able to do more things…you want to do more things?”

Does this mean you have to give permission to “do more”? Not necessarily, but you have stepped out of the cycle of arguing and even turned the argument into a potential conversation. You can then discuss calmly ways for your child to gain the independence she is asking for.

5. Acknowledge their feelings:

“You are not the boss of me!” is a classic phrase that is used often by young children. They say this when you have set a limit that they don’t like. You can reflect back their frustration, which again, is hard to argue with.

It sounds like this: “You sound frustrated. You really wanted to stay at Sarah’s house.” “You seem upset. You wanted to have ice cream now.”

Children also have times when they feel powerless, and when they argue they’re looking for a way to gain some control over their lives.

“You want to feel more in control of the situation, you want to make your own decisions. Let’s work on that. Let’s find ways where you can do that.”

6. More phrases to stop the escalation:

It is helpful to always to have as many mantras or statements we can in our toolbox to help us when things get out of hand. Here are some other phrases that could work:

To respectfully disagree:

“I hear what you are saying and glad to know what you think.” “Good point” or “You have a point.”

To move from an argument to a conversation:

“That makes sense.”

“Tell me more.”

“I can understand why you would want that.”

“I know we can figure something out…”

When it starts to get disrespectful:

“Can you change your tone? It’s hard for me to listen when you speak to me that way.”

“Can we talk about this when we are both feeling calm?”

When you are just too tired:

“I don’t have the energy for an argument now. Let’s take a break.”

To deescalate and keep it positive:

“I love you too much to argue about this.”

“No matter what you say, or how upset you get, you need to know I love you.”

We're all looking for ways to maintain peace in our home. Working on stopping the cycle of arguing is one important way to accomplish that.

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