One of the most consistent drains on our energy and our enthusiasm is to live in a world, where we stress ourselves to the maximum for our children. Yet, when we ask for the slightest bit of help, they argue, whine, complain and negotiate.
They argue over helping to carry in the groceries. They negotiate about how long to be on their phone or game. They complain and negotiate about bedtimes, doing homework or whether they need to wear a coat. They refuse to eat healthy food and negotiate to eat junk food. And of course, if you add a small chore, they will argue about how unfair it is because they work so hard. In the end, you often find it’s easier to just do it yourself. (And when you do so, resentment starts to build.)
In such situations, you discover that almost any request is viewed as a burden and then you end up in a battle. It’s exhausting and frustrating, as well as disappointing…given how hard you work.
Caution: Argumentative Tendencies Will Never Serve Your Child
If not careful, your children can become ‘conditioned’ to invest themselves in these worthless arguments. As time goes on, you can’t help but notice how much energy they will devote to fight over a two minute chore, and the absurdity of this. It’s a waste of time, energy and resources. If not careful, some of these same children learn to argue with teachers, peers, and coaches in the same manner.
The skills required to excel in life do not come from avoiding core responsibilities. Yet, these negotiations and arguments are all about avoiding responsibility and fighting necessary limits. This habit will not evolve into a positive trajectory. Here’s why:
These Children Argue in Ways That Empower False Thinking.
This is the true danger. When children grow up arguing over every little thing, they come to believe that their faulty arguments are worthy of attention and validation. Yet, the arguments have no substance, and represent repetitive thoughts with little substance.
When we invest our time to argue with them, we validate their argument as worthy of our attention. For example, when kids are arguing over bedtime, it is as if they believe that they know what is best for them. They do not. Parents know better.
When children argue that homework is stupid, they think they know best about homework. They do not. Teachers and parents know best.
When kids argue over whether they should eat the healthy dinner in front of them, they think they know what is best for them to eat. Again, they do not know about which food is good for them. Parents do.
Over and over again, most of these arguments have no basis in a valid or meaningful position. Yet, if not careful, it is the very absurdity that keeps us in the argument! Please don’t be fooled: They are not learning to become future attorneys; they are learning to believe that any thought or argument is worthy of the world’s attention and energy. This is simply not true.
It Is a Waste of Life Energy to Invest in Small Arguments.
Children and teens who constantly negotiate and argue are only resisting doing what they don’t want to do. They can waste time arguing for an hour over a task that would take them 10 minutes to complete.
If not careful, you will find them arguing as if they know best about absolutely everything. It can become relentless. No advanced skills are acquired in this process. Their thinking is solely about getting their way and avoidance of effort. And if you continue to validate this process, you will find your children grow up to believe that their fighting for the easy way is THE WAY.
It is not. It brings no results of value. So, let’s end this, with one simple insight.
“Kids Only Negotiate with Parents Who Negotiate.”
All the iterations of this are also true. For example, kids only argue with parents who argue. And kids only fight with parents who fight.
You get the idea. Now, if you can get this insight locked into your brain, relief is in sight. And you can truly help your child abandon this exhausting and self-limiting trait.
Want relief? Here’s the secret: Just stop it today. Walk away from these useless, absurd moments and refuse to argue or negotiate. Don’t speak another word.
Then watch the magic begin to happen as your child or teen abandons these argumentative patterns over the weeks ahead. Of course, they will get riled up for a while, and the arguing will intensify. But keep walking away. Ignore it all.
However, don’t give up on setting limits. You still must do that, but it won’t work with words! More words will just create more words. Got it? You will need a better action/behavior plan to get cooperation and compliance, but first we must eliminate these arguments and negotiations.
So, for now, it’s first things first. Walk away from these constant efforts to pull you into an argument and discover the freedom of a calmer home.