Argumentative Children

The tussle for authority

Authority becomes a major issue between parents and children. We were all children once and have all gone through phases when we've accused our parents of being unreasonable, autocratic, dictatorial, lacking in basic understanding, even being the enemy whose main aim in life is to thwart our happiness. We've all sworn at some point that when we become parents, things will be different. But somehow, they rarely are. The minute people become parents it's like a switch is clicked on in their brains and they go into a 'we're older so we know best' routine which becomes the cause for unending struggles for authority between parents and children.

35-year-old Sudhir Sharma recalls, "My parents were of the old school. There was no question of arguing with them. Their word was law. I think the first time I voiced any dissent was when I went to college and I desperately needed a raise in my pocket money."

Different disciplinary approaches

Parents of the old school believed that it was their duty to guide their children and protect them from the pitfalls of life. Children were expected to do what they were told and arguments were frowned upon. Unfortunately, this leads to defiance, deceit and the breakdown of communication between parents and children. 

At the other extreme, you have the parents of the egalitarian school of thought who believe that children have every right to express their desires and opinions and that this gives a fillip to bridging the generation gap. However, parents who subscribe to the idea that 'children know best' may find that it backfires. Even though children may question your authority and play 'know-it-alls', that does not mean that they do not need parental wisdom and guidance. Leaving them to their own devices will confuse them and cause anxiety. They need to know that you will always be there like a safety net.

Parents need to adopt a middle-of-the-road approach that is neither dictatorial nor too easygoing. It is essential that children learn that they must respect their parents. At the same time, they must be made to feel that their parents respect their thoughts and opinions in return. 

Some useful tips  

  • Argumentative children can really try your patience. However, try not to lash out and avoid scolding them and punishing them. This will only worsen things.
  • Using phrases like "don't ask questions," "just do as I say," "because I said so," will put you and your children in an adversarial position. These are negative statements that will only serve to put their backs up and reinforce their belief that they are misunderstood and that they are being victimized.
  • Try to make them see things from your angle. Ask them how they would feel if you spoke to them rudely and disrespectfully, the way they speak to you. Try to open their eyes to the fact that it takes two to make an argument.
  • Admonish them if they are disrespectful, but try to do it in a constructive manner. Tell them that you are willing to listen to their point of view, but only if they lower their voices and speak calmly and in a polite manner. 
  • If the argument has developed into a full-fledged battle and tempers are running high, it is advisable to take some time out and for both sides to calm down. Tell your children that nothing is going to be achieved while you are both in this frame of mind and that you will discuss the issue when your tempers have cooled. 
  • Make your children feel that you care about their opinions. Teach them to negotiate their demands without getting aggressive and argumentative. 
  • Take the trouble to explain your disciplinary stand to your children.
  • Don't be inflexible and rigid. Bend the rules on certain occasions if your children state their case convincingly and without becoming hostile and aggressive. 

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