Children argue about everything. The sound of the arguing seems to set off an alarm inside a parent’s head— A-L-E-R-T— get prepared, you’re going to have to react to get this under control. Or a parent wonders, “What could such little ones have to argue about?” “Is there something wrong with my kids?” “Am I a horrible parent?”
Arguing is a daily sport in most homes. A child makes a request and Mom or sibling says NO. Now the child begins to plead, argue, whine, and threaten. In some homes it doesn’t stop there. In some homes things go from bad to worse as the kids become physical with each other.
Now Mom reacts. She gets loud and mad, hoping her reaction will stop the arguing. The child just speaks faster and louder, trying to explain. Mom or sibling reaches the end of their rope and yells, “Stop it!” but the arguing and negotiating continues. A power struggle is in full swing.
That scene begs the question, “Why doesn’t arguing and negotiating stop when a parent yells, ‘Stop it?’” Here are three reasons why.
• Parents are always right
Children think parents always make the correct choice. Since adults insist, negotiate, and argue, kids think that insisting, negotiating, and arguing is the right way to get what you want. They decide this because they don’t have the experience to know there is another choice, and because they use immature reasoning
• Quid pro quo
Children are not stupid; they’re just using immature reasoning. Children realize that they cave in when their parent yells at them. So they argue to attempt to get their parent to cave in to their demands.
• Children argue in order to learn
Arguing is a developmental imperative. Arguing teaches your child how to speak her mind. She hasn’t mastered how to express her needs respectfully yet, and she operates from the emotional side of the brain. Those 2 factors create impassioned arguing. It’s our job as parents to help her refine the skills needed to communicate her needs without destroying her ability to express herself in the process. And each time a child finishes a developmental phase she has a new outlook on life. She argues and negotiates to see if the old rules still apply to this new view of her world.
3 Ways to help stop arguing
• See what your child sees
Try looking at situations from a child’s immature point of view, not an adult’s logical point of view. When you do that you’ll see what needs to be taught, rather than what needs to be corrected.
• Keep your relationship in mind
When you’re engaged in an argument or try to stop one between siblings, ask yourself what kind of relationship do you want to have with your older child? What you do now will absolutely impact the later years. If you continue to stop all arguing, a young child will decide, “My parents never listen to me.” When she becomes a tween or teen, she will unconsciously remember that, and decide, “They never listened to me, so why should I listen to them!”
• Children learn more from what you do than from what you say.
You have to show your child that it’s possible to stop arguing. If you want her to control her arguing, you have to go first and learn how control your arguing.
When you’re arguing—s-t-o-p and go silent for 10-60 seconds. Simply stop talking. This not only stops the arguing, it also sends the silent message that her arguing has to stop too. I won’t lie; it’s one of hardest things you’ll ever do.
Make Sure to Explain in Advance
At a calm moment explain that you’ll no longer be talking when she’s arguing. If you don’t explain, she’ll think you’re ignoring her, and that may make things worse!
Sharon Silver is the author of Stop Reacting and Start Responding: 108 Ways to Discipline Consciously and Become the Parent You Want to Be.
Receive 2 FREE tips from the book. Find Sharon on Twitter and Facebook.