I’ll be the first to admit: I find something likable about a kid that has an opinion. I appreciate a kid who knows what they want…or don’t want…and knows how to stand up for what they think is right.
Maybe this has a little to do with the fact that I was one of those kids growing up.
And it is true: There are plenty of positives about a strong-willed kid. Children prone to opinions and arguing often grow up to be great leaders. They are likely to stand strong in their convictions, and might have an easier time resisting peer pressure. They often grow up to be successful in the things they pursue.
But if you have a kid that is prone to arguing in your own family...the cute and admirable elements can quickly fade away, only to be replaced by pulling your hair out in frustration.
I would know.
We’ve got one such argument-prone kid in our family, and though I try not to name names, I will say that he is ten, full of personality, and he loves to surf.
Almost as much as he loves to argue.
If you tell this kid to clean his room, he’ll say “But first I have to…”
If you ask this kid to brush his teeth, he’ll say “Ok, but not until I finish…”
If you offer to take him surfing, he’s likely to say “But I wanted to skate.”
And trust me when I say that if you tell him the sky is blue, he’ll tell you it is more like turquoise or aqua.
It’s a running joke around our family.
But it’s kinda not funny.
Learning respect and submission are an important part of growing up. As a Christian, I am concerned that a kid who gets by constantly arguing with his parents will also have trouble submitting to God and His ways.
And you can imagine the potential problems a habitual arguer might face if they carry it into adulthood; I’m thinking bosses and spouses for starters.
The bottom line is that a kid who argues too much is not showing respect or humility, and these are two very important qualities for a kid to learn. And sadly, arguing with just about everything is easily habit-forming. Some kids start to argue before they even know what you just said.
(I think I can see a few of you nodding with me out there…)
Therefore, I am personally on a mission to teach my particular child to respect his parents, submit to authority, and still maintain a healthy dose of spunk.
So here’s what I’ve come up with, and then I hope you’ll share five more of your own. (and please hurry. :))
1. Keep Perspective.
Remind yourself that the same quality that causes your child to argue too much will likely make them strong adults and good leaders. (note: You may not want to let them in on this secret right away. Such disclosure often does not work to your advantage.)
2. Sit down and chat about things.
Let your son or daughter know that arguing with their parents is a habit that really needs to end. Tell them that even if they believe that they are one hundred percent right, the issue is one of respect. You are their parents and they need to listen and submit to the things you say. This applies whether they are seven or seventeen. There is a place for discussion (see #3) but the general rule needs to be submission and respect. This rule alone can remove a lot of debating, AND second guessing yourself.
3. Make an Appeal rule.
Offer your kid the chance to “appeal” after a certain amount of time. Offering an appeal will help remedy the “habitual” side of arguing, and will make it easier for your kid to bite their tongue when they are just dying to challenge you. Kids need to feel heard, and their opinions should matter. Give them a chance to think through things, and then when everyone is in a good state of mind, sit down and hear them out. I suggest choosing a standard amount of time between argument and appeal, and stick with it the best you can. Kids will feel most affirmed and secure if they know that there is a fair system in play.
**Note: I use this for big decisions, but not for daily things like chores and doing homework. (Oh but believe-you-me, they still try. 🙂 )
4. Establish set consequences for arguing.
If arguing has been happening for any length of time, it most likely won’t be going away easily. It is most wise to expect it, and be ready when the moment happens. It is easiest to come up with one or two specific consequences that your child knows will be waiting if and when they decide to challenge you unnecessarily. Perhaps one warning/reminder is reasonable. THEN: Dole out consequences with a smile and strong back bone. Losing a video game privilege or assigning an extra chore might be a good start. The key: Call them on it. Every. Single. Time…Nip it in the bud and let the consequences be painful enough that the thrill of the argument suddenly isn’t so thrilling. (PS. I did a short VLOG last summer about having consequences in place to help decrease anger in parenting. You might find that helpful. )
5. Reward obedience.
Take note of the positives! Make sure to notice it when your child does obey quickly. Simply telling them how much it helps you and what a blessing it is to have them cooperating will encourage them to keep it up. When they experience the peace and unity that obedience will bring, they might just want to begin a new habit. (or so we can hope!)
Your turn to share! Do you have a child prone to arguing? (Maybe two or three of them?) Have you learned any good tricks or tips to share with the rest of us!? Please join the conversation!
A couple books that you might find helpful:
Parenting With Love And Logic (Updated and Expanded Edition)
Have a New Kid by Friday: How to Change Your Child’s Attitude, Behavior & Character in 5 Days
PS The kid in the pictures may or may not be the kid in the story. And yes, he gave me full permission to name him here. (Actually he used it as a negotiating tool to get something he wanted… haha. I’m not kidding!)