I would say that, when it comes down to it, one of the most common complaints parents have is kids who argue. But kids aren’t arguing with a brick wall - for an argument to work, it takes two to tango. Here are a few things to consider while negotiating how you handle your little debaters.
Arguing is actually a choice.
As stated above, your kids can’t actually argue with themselves very well. When your child is challenging you with an argument, it is up to you whether or not to entertain and engage. Or you could choose to redefine a limit or boundary that closes the opportunity for them to argue. Closing the conversation by repeating your decision and staying firm (without adding extra discussion) can really help. If your kids are tenacious, however, going to the lengths of stating that there will be a consequence if they do not stop trying to change your decision may be in order.
Avoiding tug of war with the last word
Needing to have the last word is a dirty little force that continues arguments. I’m sure you can relate. You have told your child “no” about something and they always have another response. Which then kick starts an additional response from you - and this escalates until we are totally exhausted. It bothers us when our kids need to have the last word all the time! It seems to me, though, that part of the reason why it bothers us is because WE want the last word. As parents we see it as a power move. We don’t want to feel like our kids gained power over us or the conversation by getting to have that all-important "last word." So what do we do to maintain our parental power?………Respond. But when we respond we are actually handing over the power for them to respond back and keep the argument flowing. Instead we, as the parents, need to learn to control the conversation by not investing in the “value” of the last word. By closing the conversation quickly, repeating ourselves, or staying quiet and no longer responding, we can keep our position of power and also limit the course of the argument.
Make expectations clear
Making expectations clear will help close the gaps and create less opportunity for those arguments to happen. The more clear we are with our kids about what we expect and what our boundaries are, the easier it will be for them to know what they can and cannot challenge. So if you have a hard rule that there are no video games after dinner - and you have stayed consistent with that rule - when your child is bored and asks to play video games one night after dinner, you can easily hold your ground and close the conversation. Conversely, if your kids don’t have a set rule, and it’s a nightly discussion to play or not to play, with you caving more than you’d like to admit, then you will find yourself in regular debates because it’s more likely than not you and your child will see the issue differently. As parents we can tell pretty quickly what is debatable and what is not based on if you have a set rule about it.
Hear them out
We all have the urge to keep trying to make our point or “argue” when we don’t feel heard. Kids are no different. To help avoid escalation in the argument and close the conversation it is important to make your child feel heard. You can do this by using active listening skills - like looking at them while they are talking, summarize back to them what they are asking for, ask questions, and reflect their feelings. When they feel like you get them and what they are trying to say, they will be far more likely to accept your response rather than push back with an argument.
Get to the source
If your kids are passionately defending their case and getting amplified about the issue, it is absolutely ok to stop and start asking questions. “This seems really important to you. How come?” “I can tell you feel like this situation needs to be different. Why is that?” “Something is clearly bothering you about this. Tell me more about what is going on.” At times when we can dig for more information on what is driving the bus for them in their argument, we can better respond to the situation as well as their feelings. If they are worried, nervous, or afraid they will be disappointed, etc., their drive to fight for what they want outside of our answers will be high. If we know what’s behind the curtain we can figure out the best thing for our kid and the situation.
Arguing with kids is pretty much a regular part of parenting for the majority of us. As kids grow and crave more independence, they will challenge our direction and requests. This is relatively normal to a certain extent, although at times can make parents want to scream! Hopefully the tips above will give you some ideas to get through those challenges and keep everyone moving in a positive direction.