3 Questions to Ask Before Arguing - The older your child gets, the more conflicts appear on the horizon. When you’re parenting a toddler or elementary school aged child, arguments erupt over whether a certain toy will be purchased, bedtimes, and chores. Later, these points of conflict expand to include curfews, dating, clothing choices, cell phone use, money, drugs/alcohol, etc. In other words, things get more complicated; they don’t get simpler as you go.
Constant conflict can severely damage the parent-child relationship. Expecting immediate obedience only leads to silent
Family fights and arguments are never fun, especially at mealtime. Choose your battles and treat each other with respect.
rebellion on the part of the child. It also leaves the parent feeling like a bully. On the other hand, allowing your child or teen to do whatever they want doesn’t teach proper life management strategies, and can even endanger their life. So what’s a parent to do?
The simple answer: choose your battles. Recognize that there are things worth fighting for, and things that are best let slide. Here are two questions to aid in determining the difference between the two.
3 Questions to Ask Before Arguing
1. Is this behavior dangerous/life threatening?
At the end of the day, physical safety trumps just about every other consideration. If your child is putting their life at risk or risking the lives of others, the behavior must be stopped. Drug use, drinking and texting while driving, unprotected sex, playing in a busy street, etc. all fall under this category. While it’s always a good idea to tell a child or teen why you’re placing limits on their behavior, there’s no room for arguing on points that involve safety.
While making your stand, be sure to listen to their perspective on the behavior in question. Help them to understand they can always come to you with problems and you will help them solve them. Give them the resources to stop the behavior— drug counseling, access to birth control, an alternative place to play outdoors, etc.
2. Does this behavior represent a difference in opinion, or an underlying attitude problem?
Sometimes kids need to be allowed to express themselves in ways that their parents find annoying or just plain strange. If your child suddenly decides that they want to be a vegan when they were practically carnivorous only a week ago, so be it. If at 16 they want to dye their hair purple and wear all black— and their school has no prohibition against doing so— let them. The search for self-identification involves test-driving different beliefs and personas. Arguing over every eccentricity increases hostile feelings and resistance to your advice on more serious matters.
Some behaviors, however, are indicators of destructive tendencies that need to be addressed. If your child takes up stealing from stores or hangs around with those who do steal, allowing that to continue will potentially send the wrong message about personal responsibility and morality. A sudden obsession with ultra-violent materials also might be a cause for concern. In these sorts of cases, it’s best to address the root cause of the behavior change with the child. Simply prohibiting stealing, etc. isn’t going to be enough to change their attitude. Discussing their rational on the issue combined with a ban on the actual behavior is a much more effective strategy.
3. Does allowing this behavior foster a distorted image of how the world works?
As parents, we often want to shelter our children from some of life’s harsher realities. We give in to nagging for the newest gaming systems, toys, or clothes because we don’t want our kids to feel left out. If we positively reinforce negative behaviors like nagging, whining, or angry outbursts, we’re sending the message that these sorts of behaviors are well received by the rest of the world. Our children are done no favors when we ignore negative social behaviors. Children aren’t born knowing how to act in public or how to ask for what they want in a mature, controlled manner.
Essentially, parents need to ask themselves whether they’re fostering a world-view that designates the child as the center of the universe. Any behaviors that result from such an entitlement state of mind should be addressed.
By picking your battles, you can foster a sense of independence and uniqueness in your child without compromising ethics or common sense.