Parenting Series- On Arguing With Your Child; Dont!

Have you ever seen a parent and their child in a store really going at it? I mean yelling back and forth at each other so much that you really don’t know who is even winning? I can save you some time and even predict the outcome for future encounters you may have. Here is my prediction; the child is winning. How do I know? Simple, because if the parent is engaging them then the child has won already. If we cannot tell who is “winning” or who is in control then there is a pretty good chance that somewhere along the line the parent has lost control of the conversation.

So why is this important? It is critical in the parent child relationship because of the roles you and your child are supposed to be filling . You as the parent, play the parent. The child is supposed to play the child! If that gets out of order, trouble is on the horizon. We talked about being a child’s buddy last time, now its about being the parent and how that plays out in everyday living. It should effect your conversation, your voice tone, your voice volume, and much more. So lets address the issue of arguing with your child. It shouldn’t happen. When we argue with our children about anything, we have already taken a step down the ladder of being a parent and closer to being a peer. 

There are many reasons why we should never engage in arguing with our kids, and by arguing I mean yelling and screaming and out of control emotions. We all have heated discussions but there is a difference between a controlled intense discussion and a full on out of control, door slamming, name calling, battle. We as parents need to remind ourselves that it is our job NOT to be out of control. Especially when our kids are out of control! It is our job to keep our voice tone and volume the same throughout the conversation. It is on us to avoid sarcasm and name calling when we are engaged in a discussion with our kids. They are the ones who are supposed to be learning here! We are supposed to be modeling how to solve disagreements in the most civilized manner.

In order for us to avoid arguing we need to understand that the way we speak and the things we say to our children have everything to do with the way a conversation will go. For example making your child own their behavior is critical. If I see my child playing video games instead of cleaning their room, as they were told, I have a few options. I can say ” Jimmy, I need you to clean your room, please honey, we have to go soon” – or ” Jimmy, you got an instruction to clean your room so if you don’t want to lose your privileges you should clean it up.”  This may seem trivial but its critical. The reason is because you are setting the tone for who is responsible for the task, who will suffer the consequences if not done, and who will be at fault. In the first example the parent is setting the child up for a response like this ” Come on Mom, just chill out I will do it later I am playing a game.” That right there is the beginning of an argument. Now you and Jimmy are getting ready to battle it out and see who comes out ahead. That is no way to parent. The second example is much healthier because it places ownership back on the child. It reminds the child that THEY have a responsibility, THEY have privileges at steak, and THEY are in charge of their own destiny in this situation. They cannot easily shift it to you since you have indicated to them that they are in control of if they keep their privileges or not, not you.

In the event that Jimmy chooses not to follow instructions, and he keeps his game on, the conversation that follows should go something like this ” Jimmy, I am sorry YOU chose to keep playing your game, You know YOU lost your privileges for a day now, so why don’t you work on your room and maybe YOU can earn some time back on the video game earlier than a full day” Here you are clearly simply issuing a consequence, you are not emotionally involved, you are being a parent and issuing a consequence but letting the consequence do the work, no matter how mad you may be that the room didn’t get clean. Remember you cannot have 2 consequences for one behavior, you let the one consequence do the work, but you avoid getting “mad” or acting “angry” towards your child, otherwise you are making it personal and issuing 2 consequences. Make sense?

Here are some reminders of how to talk to our children for a healthy respect of the parent role-

1- Always state what THEY NEED to do, not what you want them to do. 

2- Never raise your voice, show your anger, make threats, or use sarcasm. Picture yourself as a monitor of your child’s behavior. Your job is simply to issue consequences good or bad depending on their behavior and the agreed upon expectations that you and your child have set up before.

3- if a child bucks a consequence, and seems to get ” out of control” remember they are the out of control ones, not you! You simply deal with each behavior as they come. If they buck, you can now use your latest skill from the last post to identify what they are doing. Accepting consequences! ” Jimmy, I know you are upset about losing your privileges, but right now you are not accepting consequences, you just said screw you when I reminded you about your lost privileges. So, now YOU have earned an extra day of lost privileges. Lets see if you can get it together and maybe you can earn some time back by getting on task. ( This method of offering some time back for good behavior often gives them some hope in a dark situation so many parents use it)

4- Always use a statement of empathy before a consequence if possible. ” Jimmy, I know you really like that new video game, but you did have an instruction…..”

5- Keep repeating the skill you are dealing with. So far we have only gone over a few social skills but soon you will have many skills to point to when dealing with your child’s behavior. Labeling a specific skill beats the heck out of saying ” You were bad” – after all what is BAD??? Bad compared to Justin Bieber? Bad compared to a choir boys? Bad is very ambiguous.  Use a specific skill . If you missed my previous posts on parenting just go back and jot down the skill taught for each post. You will be caught up. 

Now for a new social skill for today-

Accepting compliments ( yes many kids have no idea how to accept simple compliments)

1- Look at the person

2- Say thank you  

3- Shake hand or hug where appropriate

The rationale for learning to accept compliments ( reason to give your child) is that if you never learn how to accept compliments, you are less likely to get them in the future.

Well, that is today’s parenting post, so go out and don’t have an argument with your child! As always, this comes with a money back guarantee so have no fear!



Author: (Don't Label My Kid! Coaching & Counseling Team)

Social Worker- Mental Health, Addictions, and Behavioral health- Leadership Educator-, Juvenile Justice. A variety of coaching. I have a great desire to help others make it through times that I myself have had to navigate. I understand the process, the pain,and the support needed. I, and the rest of my team all have both the formal education to coach others but more importantly we also have the life experience which allows us to relate to all the phases and hurdles that come with recovering from issues like depression, addiction, domestic violence, spiritual confusion, and much more. I feel that the combination of formal training and life experience allows us to meet those we help every point of need- in a real way.

4 thoughts on “Parenting Series- On Arguing With Your Child; Dont!”

  1. Yes Tj we do indeed reap what we sow but when we come to ours senses just as the Prodigal son did, what a welcome home or in your illustration we get more free time for our obedience and a pat on the back, good advice, thank you.

    Christian Love from us both – Anne

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