Thursday, July 10, 2008

Four Ways to Effectively Handle Arguing

It can be really aggravating when you ask a child to do something reasonable and you get arguing in response. There are a wide array of ways that this can be handled effectively. One thing to keep in mind is that an important and often overlooked part of the mission is that you as the adult model ways to take good care of yourself.

Communicate some empathy. No matter what the circumstances, starting off with some empathy can never hurt. “Looks like you’re not to happy about TV being over for the day” “You really wish I’d let you go over to Ian’s house. I can understand you being frustrated with me.” What is counterintuitive, but very powerful is being empathetic, but still maintaining the reasonable limit. You can be pleasant to be around as a parent and still set reasonable boundaries and limits.

Use an enforceable statement. “I’ll be happy to talk about this when your voice is calm like mine.” We’ve covered enforceable statements before. The essence is that in a positive tone you describe what you are willing to do, provide or allow, and under what circumstances.

Walk away. This is especially powerful and helpful if 1) you have already made an enforceable statement, repeated it once calmly, and the child continues with the arguing; or 2) in some circumstances when the child is being especially obnoxious, you can pair the enforceable statement with immediately walking away. This is one of many examples of how to enhance your credibility as a parent. As they say at the Love and Logic Institute you “Say what you mean, mean what you say, and do what you say you’ll do.”

Circle back around at a calmer time. One very easy error to slide into as parents is trying to work things out in the heat of the moment. If you’ve implemented one of the above suggestions, it can help strengthen your connection with your child to check back in later when things are calm. At that calmer time you can note the child’s frustration and 1) simply acknowledge it without doing anything else, 2) invite them to talk about the situation, or 3) invite them to go back to the drawing board with you and collaboratively work on exploring other ways to look at, and work with the situation that the arguing was about. Looking more closely at collaborative problem solving certainly deserves its own set of posts. When you circle back like this fairly regularly, it makes it easier for your child to cooperate since they have some say and won't tend to feel pushed around. When you stop to think about it, kids do have to put up with a lot of adults making the decisions. By circling back and acknowledging how they feel, it makes this more tolerable. As the late Haim Ginott, the wonderful child psychologist, put it. The child should either have "voice or choice". In other words if they can't have some say in the matter, they should at least be able to protest, especially if done reasonably.

Whatever you do with arguing, the one thing to avoid is arguing back in the heat of the moment. Losing your composure ratchets down your parenting credibility quotient, and it never seems to help resolve the issue at hand. For maximum effectiveness jot these tips down and put them somewhere you can refer back to. Post its, as always are your best friend.

What age are your kids and what sorts of things do they tend to argue about? Have you had any successes trying out any of these four principles, or some related one?

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