Arguing happens anywhere, anytime, and at any age. A child asks for something, mom or sibling says NO, and the child begins to argue. Mom or sibling gets mad, hoping it 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 raises the question, "Why doesn't arguing and negotiating stop when a parent yells, 'Stop it?'" Here are three reasons why.
- Children think parents always make the correct choice. Since adults insist, negotiate, and argue, kids think that insisting, negotiating, and arguing be the right way to get what you want. They decide this because they're young, and use immature reasoning.
- Children see that their parent is trying to stop them from arguing by arguing and yelling at them. Once the child fully understands this contradiction, the parent loses some credibility, and the child doesn't listen to "Stop it."
- How many times have you said or heard a parent say, "If you'd just listen to me, I'd stop yelling?" Most parents believe that a child should change their behavior before the parent stops yelling. The better way to stop arguing is do the exact opposite. (The way to do that is #4, below.)
(Note that these tips will not stop your child from ever arguing again. She will argue, again and again. The arguing comes back because of development. Each time a child finishes a developmental cycle she has a new outlook on life. She argues and negotiates to see if the old rules still apply. And you have no idea who your child is yet to become. She may need to be a skilled negotiator as an adult!)
4 Steps For Ending the Arguing
- The first thing parents need to do is look at situations from a child's immature point of view, not an adult's logical point of view. See what your child sees. You need to see that the insisting, negotiating, and yelling teaches her that these are the ways adults get what they want. Why wouldn't she think she should do that too?
- You need to 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 argue with your child now, she'll play it back to you "big time" when she's a tween or a teen. Realizing what your future holds is a great motivator to change!
- Children learn 200 percent more from what you do than from what you say. You have to show your child that it's possible to do what you're asking her to do. If you want her to control herself, you have to control yourself, first.
- Parents have to change their behavior before their child does. How? When you find yourself marching down the reaction path, go silent for 10-60 seconds instead of arguing. Make a conscious decision to just stop arguing. I won't lie; it's one of the hardest things you'll ever do. You might be thinking, "Doesn't that mean I'm letting her get away with disrespectful behavior?" Not at all; going silent is far firmer than punishment!
Parental silence captures her attention and causes her to think, "Uh oh, Mom isn't arguing, I'm in big trouble." Silence also says, "I'm no longer willing to argue with you, and I'm going to help you learn how to control yourself."
Explain the Change 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!
I hope you're inspired by the four ways to change arguing. Give it a try, and talk to me in the comments. Let me know if it's working and let me know what other topics you want me to address!
Sharon Silver is a parenting educator and the founder of Proactive Parenting. She's also the author of Stop Reacting and Start Responding: 108 Ways to Discipline Consciously and Become the Parent You Want to Be.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.