It is all too easy to get sucked into arguments with children where both parents and kids are back talking and escalating the situations. The focus then becomes winning the argument instead of respecting each other’s feelings and point of view. Parents can defuse these tense situations by validating their children’s feelings and choosing to end, or at least pause, the arguments.
Arguing back and forth, whether it is with children, friends, or between spouses, doesn’t really end with someone winning. The energy used to argue still negatively hangs in the air, with words that were spoken and can’t be taken back, threats, or disrespecting another’s emotions. People often argue because the need to be right overshadows the need to have a peaceful solution. For parents, arguing with their children and engaging them in back talking doesn’t teach their kids how to respect the feelings someone else.
Ending an argument rarely happens when one person just gives in. It usually ends with negative consequences, such as storming off, yelling hurtful words, or other unproductive actions. For an argument to have a real solution, someone needs to consciously decide to disengage from the negative situation and commit to finding a peaceful answer. As children have not yet had enough experiences to learn the skill of stopping an argument rationally, it is up to the parents to take the lead.
Parents should be watchful for signs that a discussion is headed for an argument, and be ready to diffuse the situation. One of the fastest ways to end an argument with a child is to acknowledge the feelings of the child. Parents can say something like, “I hear from you that you are really upset about this. Can you tell me more about what is upsetting you?” Even though parents might not like the answers, the child will often be more likely to calm down when he thinks that his parent is listening and respecting his feelings.
Sometimes it will be difficult for kids to even know why they are arguing. They have multitudes of hormones and emotions running through them, and rational thought is not always possible. Giving them a calm environment in which to discuss their feelings might help them to sort them out as well. If acknowledging the child’s feelings doesn’t help the situation, taking a 10 or 20 minute break from the situation can help. Parents just need to make sure that they aren’t acting as if they are just walking away from a challenging moment, but be clear that they are using the time to calm down and think about ways to help the situation and give the child the same opportunity.
Validating children’s feelings will be much more effective than engaging in back talk with them. When kids feel that their parents are truly listening and respecting their feelings, even if they don’t always understand them, they will be more likely to come to parents with other challenging issues. The more parents try to force their children to “give-up” the fight, the more struggles they are asking for. To validate a child’s feelings is to help them learn to communicate and respect others, including moms and dads.
Your friend and fellow parent,
Parenting Coach, Author & Speaker