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I am the mother of two children, both teenagers.
I have lived through the terrible twos, the trying threes, the fearsome fours, and the what-have-I-done-to-deserve-this tweens.
Arguments are part of each of these stages.
However, there are ways to decrease the frequency and intensity of arguments with your child.
How to Stop Arguing With Your Child
Children test boundaries. This starts as early as the toddler years. They will argue with you over matters that range from serious to insignificant. What you need is to know how to manage these arguments and improve the way you communicate.
- Nichols, Michael P. (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 229 Pages – 03/11/2004 (Publication Date) – The Guilford Press (Publisher)
Step 1: Look at Arguing in a New Light
We are built to believe that arguing is automatically negative.
In truth, arguing can be a very positive activity. When you argue, you have a chance to learn something new about your child.
Arguing also pushes you to rethink your own ideas.
If you approach an argument as just another form of communication, it may evolve from an argument into a conversation.
Step 2: Refuse to Participate
Your child’s argument might be purely contrarian.
For example, a popular trick among moms of toddlers is to give them options. “Do you want to wear the black shoes or the brown shoes?”
The thought behind this is that giving a child options gives them ownership and avoids a confrontation. It doesn’t always work.
When I tried this tactic on my child, the answer was usually, “I only like red shoes.”
These contrarian arguments aren’t helpful for anyone. Learn to recognize these contrarian arguments and refuse to participate in them.
It will be difficult at first. Eventually, your child will learn that they will not be gratified by the argument when you don’t participate.
Step 3: Listen to Your Child
The fact that your child doesn’t automatically agree with you does not mean that they are striving to be difficult.
It doesn’t not mean that either, but sometimes it can be a good idea to give them the benefit of the doubt.
Listen to what your child has to say.
Even if the argument doesn’t make sense to you, your child will appreciate that you are showing them respect and consideration.
You may also learn some things that you didn’t know before.
Furthermore, when a child feels listened to, they are more likely to talk to you about important things happening in their life.
Step 4: No Interruptions
When your child is arguing with you, your knee-jerk response may be to interrupt them to shut the argument down.
While I don’t recommend this, I understand that sometimes expediency requires it. That should be the exception rather than the rule.
Make a concerted effort not to interrupt your child when they are arguing with you. Listen to their words, wait patiently, and then respond.
If (when) your child interrupts you, remind them that you didn’t interrupt them when they were speaking and that they will have their turn to respond when you’re done.
Then tell them that you will not listen to them if they interrupt you.
If this technique works the very first time you try it, buy a lottery ticket right now.
It will take many, many arguments before your child learns that interruptions are not accepted.
Step 5: Ask Questions
You are listening to your child. You are not interrupting. What’s next? Ask questions.
Why does your child feel the way they do? Refer to specific points your child has made and ask thoughtful, respectful questions.
This might not cause the argument to stop, but it will show your child that you care.
For example, my 17-year-old son and I have an ongoing argument about retaking the ACT.
He scored 35 on his ACT, putting him in the top one percent of test-takers. He wants to take it again to try to score a perfect 36.
My argument is that seeking a perfect score is just vanity. He can use the $60 test fee elsewhere while still being competitive for his top-choice colleges.
However, I didn’t end the argument with a firm no. I asked for him to explain to me why he wants to retake the test beyond, “I just want to.”
This not only made him explain his feelings to me but to himself. After some thought, he admitted that it was all about perception.
He wants to think of himself, and have others think of him, as the guy with the perfect ACT score.
He had to admit that it’s not rational, but that doesn’t make him want to retake the test any less.
Step 6: Recognize (Bad) Argument-Ending Techniques
Ending an argument is usually a good thing. It means that you and your child reach a solution that makes at least one of you happy.
Conversely, it could mean that you’re both too tired to continue fighting. Either way, the good news is that it’s over.
There are some bad ways to end an argument that you must avoid. The worst and most common is screaming your child into submission.
Even if reasoning with your kid doesn’t work, yelling at them until they are so cowed they can’t go on is damaging.
Another bad way to end an argument is guilt. Using a guilt trip hurts you both and accomplishes nothing.
A third is to insult your child. Calling them stupid or cruel might end the argument but it may also end your relationship.
It is better to suffer through an argument than to end it badly.
Step 7: Model Good Behavior
A great way to avoid arguments with your children is to avoid them with your spouse.
Your children watch the way their parents interact and often mimic that behavior.
This doesn’t mean you should never disagree with your spouse.
You should voice your opinion whether or not it differs from the other adult in the household.
However, you must always be respectful when you have discussions so kids can recognize how people who might not agree can still get along.
Step 8: Take a Break
Some people need to take a pause and a breath in order to avoid become getting overheated during an argument.
Taking a time out can do wonders for those people.
Getting the chance to cool down may keep you from prolonging a needless argument or saying things you might regret.
Personally, this doesn’t work for me. I am the type of person who gets angrier the longer I pause.
I need to deal with an issue right away. If taking a break doesn’t work for you, don’t do it.
You do need to understand your own confrontation style so you can make the choice that works for you.
Step 9: Hug it Out
The best advice I can give you is to never end an argument angry. You won’t be able to stop all arguments, no matter how hard you try.
What you can do is ensure your child that you love them even when you disagree.
I intersperse all arguments with, “Please remember I love you even when I disagree with you/am mad at you/get cranky.”
I also never, ever let an argument end without a hug. I don’t force hugs, but luckily I don’t have to.
Step 10: Admit When You’re Wrong
One of the hardest things for a parent to do is admit when they are the one who is to blame for the argument.
I have been in this situation more times than I can count. Some parents believe they will relinquish power if they admit to wrongdoing.
This is not true.
When you admit to your child that you were wrong, you share with them the ability to learn and grow from your mistakes.
You are giving them the tools they need to be good people with healthy attitudes.
What could be more powerful than that?
Arguing with your child is frustrating but it doesn’t need to be consuming.
You can mitigate future arguments and manage the ones you currently have with a little compassion and a lot of communication.
What is the most frustrating argument you’ve had with your child? Tell us in the comments!