Most definitions of “argue” suggest the presentation of reasons or evidence, compelling data that have the effect of persuasion. But we’re talking about children here, so the discussion necessarily needs to be broader. Arguing with children is a lot like using gasoline to put out a fire, or drinking hot sauce to deal with a bad case of heartburn. Not only is the way we tend to argue a bad idea, but the process is also likely to exacerbate the situation and accelerate the destructive cycle. How much of our family time is defined by this kind of conflict?
There are ways to productively argue with your children, but it’s going to need a different strategy than usual. Here’s how to argue effectively with your kids.
When you listen you learn about them. Then, more often than not, we discover we’re not so far apart after all. We also teach our children to listen and not always assume they are right.
2. Avoid patronizing.
You may be right, but rubbing it in is never a good idea.
3. Develop a playbook for disagreements.
Call a family meeting when there’s no argument pending. Hash out argument guidelines. Respect everyone’s ideas. Offer several alternative procedural guidelines (all acceptable to the parents) and let the kids make the call. Then (this is very important when a real argument comes along) make sure to always follow the rules yourself.
4. Teach effective argument techniques.
This is not a case of shooting yourself in the foot, but of equipping your child with a useful tool.
5. Let your child know they are heard and understood.
Let your child know they are heard and understood.This goes beyond the simple reception of information. Paraphrase what your child has said. Ask them if you have it right. Try the information on for size.
6. Be receptive to new ideas.
Let your child know you value their input.
7. Avoid the pride trap.
Sometimes, a few seconds into an argument, the unthinkable occurs. You realize you’re wrong and that your child is right. Some parents will continue to argue on principle. Don’t be that guy.
No, seriously, this can be fun. Role play can disarm the tension. Say, “Let’s switch roles. I’ll be the kid and you be the parent.” Then, lay out all the facts and advocate for your child’s point of view. Often, kids will be harsher on themselves than we would imagine.
Name-calling is always wrong. If you say a child’s argument is “stupid,” or “emotional,” or “childish,” then the discussion shifts and kids begin to defend themselves rather than talk about a point of view or an idea.
10. Remember not to confuse a healthy discussion with parental authority.
Some things should not be argued about simply because they’re non-negotiable. However, once your child understands that you argue reasonably, fairly and productively, he/she will accept the non-negotiable points with less opposition.
Sound off: How do you handle conflict in your house?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “Is it harder for you to argue your point with someone or listen to their side?”