Handling arguments with your child

When you and your preschooler argue it can be hard to keep your cool, but there are ways to handle these squabbles that will help resolve the situation and hopefully cut down the number of arguments you face.

An argument is hard on everyone involved. Tempers flare and it’s not always easy to stop and listen to what the other person is trying to say.

It’s important to remember that there are at least two sides to every argument. And that there are complicated feelings at work on both sides. While you may be feeling that your child isn’t recognizing your authority, your child may be feeling she isn’t being heard, and that her views and feelings aren’t important to you. Both of you are sure to be feeling frustrated and hurt.

It is good practice to repeat what you heard your child saying. For young children, they may have some trouble saying what they really mean and it is helpful to make sure you are getting their message. For example: “What I hear you saying is that you want to finish the show before you clean you room.” If your child agrees that is what they are saying you can then give your position.

When someone feels you are listening to them it is usually easier for them to listen to you.

Validate the child’s feelings. “I see that you are angry,” or “I hear that you are feeling upset,” are great statement to make that let your child know you not only hear what they are saying but what they are feeling.

Identify if feelings are getting in the way of solutions. When feelings are high it can stop anyone from listening, but especially a child, who sometimes stops listening and responding to you. You cannot reason with a child who is in the middle of a temper tantrum or starts to stomp their feet. Let the child know that you know they are angry, or upset, or frustrated, but they need to calm down before you can talk with them. Give them some space and time and do not get into any discussion or arguing while they are in their “temper.” This is a great life skill to teach a child while they are young and one that many adults have not learned well.

Also, if your emotions are overwhelming you, let the child know that you need to calm down before you go on. This is great modeling. Once you are in control of yourself you can sit down with your child to go through their side and to give yours.

Don’t go on forever. Once all has been said it is time for a solution or decision. If it is something small you may consider having the child make the decision. If it is something more important or a consequence is required then you need to make the decision. Once made, the message to your child is that the arguing is over. There is no appeal court. If your child continues to argue the best response is silence or to ignore them. Follow up on whatever the decision is and give them time to calm down and respond.

Acknowledge their behaviour, Comment when your child behaves in the way you want them to act; For example; “Thank you for saying what you think so clearly,” or “Thank you for calming down so we can deal with the problem.” Or “Thank you for doing what you need to do and not arguing anymore.”