Most of us know that arguing with your children is never a good idea. Yet somehow, we always seem to get caught up in it, whether it’s an argument about eating dinner, getting dressed in the morning or doing homework. If they don’t want to do it, they know exactly how to push your buttons.
Thoughtful Parenting: Youth Services
This weekly column about parenting issues is written by area youth-serving professionals. It publishes on Mondays in the Steamboat Today. Read more columns here.
After a long day of work and all the other stressors parents deal with, it’s easy for us to either give in or engage in an argument. Most of the time, we simply don’t know what else to do. Kids know arguing is a good way to get attention from their parents, even if it is negative. They also know if they’re persistent enough, their parents will eventually concede.
This does two things: It teaches your child you will never follow through, which, in turn, creates a lack of respect and a child who never has clear boundaries, and it sends the message that we can’t regulate our own emotions.
We parents are on the front lines of modeling the behavior we want in our children. When our children don’t have clear boundaries and a model of self-regulation, they struggle to self-regulate. The mature adult brain is fully capable of self-regulation. We can multi-task, make decisions and conscientiously decide to react appropriately, while a less-developed child’s brain has yet to make those connections of controlling themselves. Recent research suggests self-regulation graded higher in importance than IQ or academic success with regard to school readiness.
If children grow up believing they can get their way through arguing and manipulation, will they lead a happy life? How about the people around them? How about their first three wives?
At our Love and Logic parenting classes, we teach a simple, yet powerful, technique to break the arguing cycle. The first and most important step is to remind ourselves that it’s OK for our kids to feel uncomfortable about the limits we set. Boundaries are healthy. Boundaries let your child know you love them.
Second, go brain-dead, meaning, when they begin with the “yeah, buts” and the whining, turn your brain off. This automatically helps you resist the urge to dive into the drama and lecturing. Thus, the more effective we become.
Finally, find a favorite one-liner and implant it in your brain for eternity. Calmly (the most important part of your delivery) repeat it over and over. We like the following possibilities.
• I love you too much to argue.
• I know.
• What did I say?
• Thanks for sharing.
• I argue at 6 a.m. on Saturdays.
Repeat this process until they eventually get tired. Once they see that your face doesn’t turn purple and the smoke doesn’t come out of your ears anymore, it’s no fun.
This technique is effective at any age. In fact, the sooner you start to set loving limits and practice these simple techniques to neutralize the arguing, the more success you’ll have when they’re teenagers.
Beth Wendler and Heather Martyn have started the Parent2 Partner training series, which offers the Parenting the Love and Logic Way workshop. On Jan. 17, their next five-week series will be offered from 12:15 to 1:15 Thursdays for parents of children age 1 to 6. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.