Your Honor, I Object!
How to “Win” When Your Kid Loves To Argue
When my daughter was in kindergarten I received a phone call from the principal informing me that my girl had kicked one of her male classmates “where it counts.” Not exactly one of my proudest mom moments.
The principal then revealed to me that this kicked young man had spit on my daughter (along with some other classmates). Before kicking him, my daughter had made it very clear to this young man that she was not OK with what he was doing, yet he continued to do it. Therefore, she took matters into her own hands. (Or I suppose, her own feet?)
The principal encouraged me to have a conversation with her at home, but said that an additional consequence was really necessary. While he was not condoning what she did, he said he respected the fact that she didn’t just sit back and quietly take it.
He described to me how she very directly (but politely) told him that the way this little boy was treating her and other kids in their class was not OK. He was impressed with her ability to state her case and also her willingness to stand up for other kids who were too scared to say or do anything.
Should I feel proud or mortified?
Perhaps my daughter will grow up to become a fantastic attorney. Maybe she will become a powerful politician pushing for important changes in our community. Perhaps there is some other career in which demanding an adequate reason for an answer of “no” is a requirement.
These are the things I tell myself when I am dodging bullets in the midst of one of her intense argumentative moments.
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Tips for Winning with Argumentative Kids
If you have an argumentative child, you know exactly what I am talking about. While I admire that she stands up for herself, she stands up for what is right, and she essentially doesn’t take any trouble from anyone, as a parent, her arguing can be frustrating and exhausting.
Here are some things that I have found to be helpful as I’ve tried to parent my argumentative kid.
**NOTE: If your child seems to be abnormally argumentative and it is affecting home life or school, it’s possible they may need help from a therapist. Please reach out for help if your child’s argumentative nature seems overwhelming and excessively defiant. There are many helpful resources in the Grand Rapids Special Needs Guide.
Be SUPER Clear and Consistent
Nobody is a perfect parent (even if it looks that way on Facebook), but the most successful parents I know are clear about their expectations and consistent in their follow through.
This is especially important with kiddos who are on the lookout for a loophole. Here’s an example.
Let’s say you told your son in the morning that he needs to have his room cleaned up by a certain time in order to have his friend over. That time has come and gone and his room still looks like a bomb went off in it.
Stand your ground: no friend. Even if he begs you, insists that he will do it now, says you are the meanest mom ever…stand your ground. Your words become idle threats in a big hurry as soon as your kid starts seeing that they can argue their way into a win.
It Takes Two to Tango… And Argue
One person cannot have an argument. If you don’t engage, the argument really has nowhere to go.
Here is a typical scenario with an argumentative child. You have given your decision about something, your daughter has presented her evidence as to why you are wrong, you have restated your position, and yet she continues to engage.
Sometimes that magic phrase of “I love you too much to argue with you” is your best parenting move.
I have been known to tell my daughter something like, “I hear your words, but do you hear mine? My decision is final and I am now walking away. I would be happy to talk with you when you are calm.”
You do not have to attend every argument you are invited to. You don’t have to prove that you are in charge or that you are right. You are the parent. What you say goes. Period.
Keep Your Cool When Argumentative Kids Start Heating Up
This is probably the most important and difficult thing to do. When emotions run high, smart decision making runs low.
Even if your argumentative child is in your face yelling at you, resist the urge to yell back. I can tell you from experience that it’s going nowhere productive. Take a deep breath, make eye contact, lower your voice, and state what needs to be stated.
As mentioned above, taking a break from the conversation can be a smart move, too. Remember that you are modeling the behavior that you want to see in your child. If you come down to their level with yelling, nastiness, etc. you are just making matters worse.
Wait to Talk When Emotions Have Settled
It’s important that kids feel like they are being heard. That is why talking about these situations once emotions have calmed down is important.
Don’t miss the opportunity to talk to your child about what is OK and not OK when it comes to having a discussion about something. Your conversations will be much more productive when they are not in the heat of the moment.
You Can Do This! Teach Them Well Now, and They Will do Amazing Things
Argumentative Kids can use their powers for good in adulthood. Not only can they stand up for themselves, but they can also stand up for others. They can become powerful leaders, lawyers for the oppressed, public servants or great visionaries who won’t take no for an answer until their idea is realized.
If we as parents can teach these kids the boundaries for arguing, they can go far.
I expect that my daughter will have a tendency to argue for the rest of her life. However, I like to think that we are both making progress in our ability to handle disagreements in a respectful way.
She continues to learn that what mom or dad say goes and I continue to get better at not allowing myself to take the bait. So for the next five years that she lives under my roof, I will be doing a lot of deep breathing, allowing my husband to tag in when my buttons are pushed, and practicing my quiet calm voice.
And who knows- maybe in another 20 years we will be framing her picture from the cover of Time Magazine Woman of the Year.