Fairly frequently, I hear about children who are “argumentative,” will “argue for hours on end” or “will not stop arguing.” This is common enough to talk about.
Here is the news:
1. It takes at least 2 people to have an argument. If your child is arguing with you, you are also arguing with your child. What you are doing and saying is maintaining the argument.
2. A lot of times, the child is arguing about something you control (access to a certain food, money, permission to have a sleep over, not going to school, etc.), so he needs you visible and engaged to get access to what he wants. Your engagement/arguing signals the continued availability of the item.
3. Sometimes, the arguments work (access to those things he wanted, but were not allowed prior to the argument itself). If the argument gets “solved” after an hour, the hour-long argument has been taught…by you (see the post about kicking the soda machine).
Think about these things if you find you have an attorney in training (no offense):
1. If you control what the child is arguing about, leave it. If a 15 year old is arguing about driving to the beach and you have the keys to the car, why go into some diatribe about being 15, not being responsible enough, against the law, etc. YOU HAVE THE KEYS…ITS NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. This is even easier with younger kids. “I want gummy bears! NOPE. (They are in the top of the cabinet where she can’t reach them…why argue about it?)
2. Don’t let an argument be a “skeleton key.” Arguments should not open doors that were not open prior to the argument itself. Otherwise, it has been effective even if the initial request is not granted. For example:
CHILD: I want to go to Lizzie’s house to spend the night
PARENT: No, not tonight
PARENT: Because I said so
CHILD: [Increasing intensity, “I hate you,” “I never get to spend the night,” “Lizzie’s mom is cooler than you,” etc.]
PARENT: I tell you what…do you want Lizzie to come over here tonight?
CHILD: Sure mom, can we go to Pizza Hut? I LOVE YOU MOM.
Think about this next time your child is hysterically arguing about not being able to get that pizza delivered for breakfast instead of explaining why you shouldn’t eat pizza for breakfast and giving him the option to order it for lunch if he stops complaining.