Arguing can happen anywhere, anytime, and at any age. Children want what they want. They start by demanding what they want and when mom says NO, they argue. Mom gets more intense hoping it will stop the arguing. The child, on the other hand, speaks faster and gets louder to try and get their request in under the wire. Mom reaches the end of her rope and yells, “Stop it right now!” 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 now?’”
The answer is your child thinks this is how the adult world works. Get ready for the bad news; she learned it from you. Your child has been watching you for years. She’s heard everything you’ve said and she’s observed your behavior, too.
Children think parents always make the correct choice. Since adults insist, negotiate and argue, kids think that must be the right way to get what you want. This happens because they’re young and use immature reasoning to draw conclusions.
Every parent wants to stop the arguing that kids do. The problem is they try to stop it by insisting, negotiating and yelling. Once the child fully understands that’s what’s happening, the parent looses some credibility and doesn’t listen to “Stop it.”
I know it’s hard to realize, but it’s true.
This tip won’t stop your child’s from ever arguing again. The arguing will come back again and again. It’s how children learn what the boundaries are. Each time a child comes out of a developmental cycle he has a new outlook on life. He argues to see if the old rules apply to the new way he views the world.
Parents Need to Change First
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 first and then the parent will stop yelling. The better way to handle things is the exact opposite of that.
How to Make the Change
Here are 4 things to help make the arguing stop.
- Parents need to look at the insisting, negotiating and yelling from a child’s immature point of view, not an adult’s logical point of view. They need to see that the insisting, negotiating and yelling proves to a child that this is the way to get what you want. Why wouldn’t a child think she should do that too?
- Ask yourself what kind of relationship you want to have with your older child? Why, because what you do now will absolutely impact the later years. If you continue to argue with your child now, she’ll use it as part of her rebellion when she’s a tween or a teen. Realizing what your future may hold, if you don’t change things, is a great motivator!
- Children learn 200% 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 need 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. You have to make a conscious decision to just stop arguing. I won’t lie; it will be one of hardest things you’ll ever do.
Your first reaction may be, “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, I’m in big trouble.” Your silence also says, “I’m no longer willing to argue with you and I’m right here to help you learn how to control yourself.”
At a calm moment please explain what your new plan is. Tell her that from now on you won’t be talking until she calms down and can really hear you. If you don’t explain this to her, she’ll think you’re ignoring her and may get upset or more out of control, or both.
Changing your behavior first by going silent breaks the power struggle dynamic and actually makes the arguing stop.
Some parents like to use warnings before using silence. Read How to Make 1, 2, 3, Warnings Work
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.
Sharon Silver is the author of Stop Reacting and Start Responding and the Skills e-class. Go to proactiveparenting.net to download two free chapters from her book and learn about other Proactive Parenting programs. Find Sharon on Twitter and Facebook.