Every parent will get into arguments with their child. And sometimes it will seem like you can’t get through a single day without arguing. No matter how old your child is, having an argument with them is difficult. No parent enjoys this part of parenthood. But, because it is unavoidable (as far as I know!), it’s a good idea to learn how to better manage an argument when it does happen.
First and foremost, you never want to be in a situation where you feel like you have to “win” an argument with your child. The moment you enter this state of mind, you lose complete control of the situation and, more importantly, you’re no longer thinking about what is best for your child and what they’re really needing.
That’s why the key to handling an argument with your child is de-escalation — not winning, not control, not proving you’re right.
The most difficult part of de-escalating an argument with your child is remembering what to do when you’re in the middle of it. After all, your emotions start to take over just as much as they’re taking over your child, leaving you often at the will of your habits (or repeating the same things your parents used to do when you would get into an argument with them!)
As difficult as it is, the key to de-escalation is staying calm, staying present, and then implementing some of these effective strategies below…
Don’t intrude personal space. A lot of parents unintentionally start moving into their child’s personal space during an argument in order to make themselves dominant and to ensure that their child is paying attention. This, however, always escalates an argument, making your child feel threatened and disrespected. Instead, maintain and respect personal space throughout the duration of an argument.
Don’t demand. Most parents use demands during an argument in order to prove they’ve won. Forcing a child to go to their room, turn off a screen, or any other type of action only intensifies an argument — and makes a child start to resent you for not respecting their autonomy.
Get on their level. When dealing with smaller children, it’s important to try to get down on their level so that you can make eye contact as you talk. This strategy helps to show respect and places you in a position that feels more calm and caring.
Respect their feelings. While an argument may have arisen because of actions that your child took that were inappropriate, dangerous, etc., the feelings they are now experiencing aren’t wrong or unimportant. So often parents, in an attempt to gain control, ignore or invalidate their child’s feelings during an argument. While it’s okay to let your child know that their actions were not okay, it’s not okay to ignore or disrespect how they are feeling.
Answer their questions. During an argument a lot of things can be said by your child that they don’t mean and it’s okay to ignore these statements and assertions. However, when your child asks you a question during an argument, it’s important that you do your best to answer it. The more you ignore their questions, or resort to “Because-I-Said-So” statements, the more you lose control of the situation. If it’s difficult to answer questions during an argument, let your child know that you’re listening and will answer them as soon as you calm down. You can even write their questions down so that they know you are being earnest.
De-escalating an argument takes practice, but the benefits are worthwhile. When you can stay calm during an argument you help model the behavior you want for your child. Not to mention you ensure that an argument never gets too out of hand!