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When you are dealing with argumentative children very quickly the focus can change from whatever started the argument to a totally irrelevant topic. This is often because the child has taken control of the argument.
As a parent, your job, of course, is to train and guide, not to engage in pointless arguments with your child. Easier said than done, to be sure, but just giving some thought to this process can mean the next time you are in an argument with your child or teen you can keep control of the conversation and make the situation a focus of positive change.
An argument can become a source of positive change? Really?
Yes and here is how.
– Decide ahead of time to not argument.
The truth of the matter is that most arguments between parents and children are actually power struggles. For some reason, kids instinctively know this and sometimes will intentionally "pick fires" to demonstrate their ability to spin up mom or dad.
If you do not believe this, then you will probably never have a constructive argument with your child. They have already won. However, if you are able to take an objective look at these kinds of situations, you will notice that the one thing that is required for an argument to really gain steam is both parties' participation.
So the first thing to do as a parent is to not participate in the argument. Just do not do it. Sounds simple, does not it? But if your child has learned your emotional hot buttons, then changing your behavior will not be simple at all.
Do this one thing the next time an argument starts between you and your child.
That's it. Just listen. Which means you will not be talking, you'll be listening to what your child is saying (or screaming).
At first, your child may up the ante by yelling louder. Very quickly, however, the argument will lose its power because only one person will be participating – and it is not you.
– Ask questions.
Once the argument has cooled and people are calm again, present your child with a written set of questions designed to separate truth from emotional hype.
Questions such as …
* Tell me what was upsetting you at that moment.
* Tell me what you would like to see happen (or change). Does it pass the tests of reasonableness and our family's values?
* Tell me your plan, in detail, for making the change happen.
* Tell me what obstacles you see happening if we make this change.
* If this change requires something from me, tell me what you will do for me in exchange of equal value.
Develop your own questions that are appropriate for your family situation. The point is that answering these types of questions forces your child to either …
* admit that Mom or Dad is listening to him and stands ready to work out a positive change or
* reveals that the child is not interested in moving forward, but only in winning the power struggle of arguing.
As a parent you can easily think this process through in advance and envision what may happen. For example, some children will get quite angry when they realize their power struggle victories are over.
However, some argumentative children will recognize the advantage this process gives them if they truly feel no one has been listening to them before. Either way, you will know more about truth in your own family than you knew before. And insight is always a good – and challenging – thing.
Want to know how to deal with argumentative children? Stop participating in the argument and get them engaged in a positive process of change that they are personally involved with.
It's not a magic process, but it can change the direction of conversation in your home with very little effort.