Posted by: coachingparents | August 9, 2007

Argumentative Children

By Dr. Caron B. Goode

As parents, you want your child to grow up safe and healthy. No simple task, even under the best of circumstances. An argumentative child can make parenting seem even more challenging than it already is. He questions your every move and refuses even the simplest request. While this intense brand of scrutiny may serve him well as an adult, it can extremely frustrating in a child.

Parenting an argumentative child is an art. You want him to thrive and develop habits for successful living. In order to do this, however, he must first learn that not everything is negotiable. More than likely, he already knows this, but continues to argue anyway. It is up to you to figure out why. There are several possible reasons your child chooses the path of most resistance. He may feel the need for control. He may be vying for negative attention. Or he may just be a natural born fighter. Whatever the case may be, it is important you learn how to parent your child without putting out all his fire.

Parenting an Argumentative Child

*State your request clearly—It is important that you state your request clearly, leaving no room for interpretation. Always begin requests with “I want you to” instead of “You need to.” An argumentative child will be quick to point out that maybe you don’t know what he needs. Therefore, it is best to choose your words carefully.

*Listen respectfully—As difficult as it may be, listen to your child’s argument. Listening shows that you respect him and honor his emotions. It does not, however, mean you will change your mind.

*Remain Calm—An argumentative child will pull out all the stops. His goal is to win, and that does not necessarily mean a change in outcome. If your child is seeking negative attention, he may be just as happy to see you lose control. Therefore, it is important you remain calm. By practicing self-control, you are modeling good behavior for your child.

*Empathize—Let your child know you appreciate his point of view, without compromising. You may say something like, “I understand you would rather not, but it is what I want you to do right now,” or “I would feel the same way if I were in your shoes, but I’m not.” Don’t argue or over explain. Simply help him see that you make decisions based on what you believe is best for him.

*Restate your request—Once again, state your request clearly. If he continues to argue, don’t act, unless you have a behavior modification plan at the ready. Spewing off empty threats and unrealistic consequences will do more harm than good if you are not prepared to follow through.

*Plan for an argument—Parenting an argumentative child takes a great deal of forethought. When you decide to tackle this issue, make sure you are prepared. A well thought out plan can be your key to success. Work out a set of reasonable consequences and rewards that both you and your child can live with. For instance, if he refuses to put away his race cars, give him a choice. Tell him that he has five minutes to pick up his toys or lose any left on the floor. The choice is his. If he continues to argue and does not comply, calmly but firmly carry out the consequence. Eventually, he will learn to make better choices.

Guiding argumentative children is neither easy nor is it instant. It may take some time for your child to realize you mean business. But refusing to argue with him and sticking to your guns will pay off in the long run.

Caron Goode’s (EdD) insights are drawn from her fifteen years in private psychotherapy practice and thirty years of experience in the fields of education, personal empowerment, and health and wellness. She is the author of ten books and the founder of the Academy for Coaching Parents, a training program for parents & professionals who wish to mentor other parents. A mom and step-mom, she and her husband live in Ft. Worth, Texas. Reach her at


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