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How Can I Get My Child to Stop Arguing?

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Think about it: It takes two to argue. Your child cannot "argue" by himself. That's called "mumbling."

Say it once: Practice stating your case, then being quiet. Ignore your child's argumentative comments, and walk away if you must. Let your child get used to your word being final.

Let 'em complain a bit: As long as it's respectful, sometimes let your child have the last word. Often a statement, such as, "Why do I have to do it?" neither requires nor deserves an answer. Often, a child's mutterings really mean, "I'll do it 'cus I have to, but I don't like it."

Set rules for debating: Some children really do enjoy debating an issue. If your child is like this, set ground rules for when and how issues can be debated. For instance: no raising of voices, no name calling, quiet listening to the other person's point of view. This behavior provides excellent practice for learning how to negotiate in life. In addition, your child must understand that some things cannot be argued - that there are some things the parents must decide. Have a standard reply for when an issue cannot be debated, such as, "This is not open for discussion."

Offer choices: Get in the habit of offering your child choices, instead of issuing commands. Children who are argumentative will have less opportunity to practice the skill if you offer a choice. For example, instead of saying, "Do your homework, right now," offer a choice, such as, "What would you like to do first: your homework or the dishes?" (If the response is, "Neither," you can smile sweetly and say, "That wasn't one of the choices. Homework or dishes?")

(Excerpted with permission by NTC/Contemporary Publishing Group Inc. from Perfect Parenting, The Dictionary of 1,000 Parenting Tips by Elizabeth Pantley, copyright 1999)

Credits: Elizabeth Pantley

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