If you have children at home, you’re familiar with arguments like:
“But everyone else has one. Why can’t I get one too?”
“I don’t want to clean my room.”
“I didn’t know I was supposed to feed the cat. You said you would do it.”
Fighting with your kids at the home leads to stress, frustration, and exhaustion. What can you do to lessen the frequency and potency of arguments with your children?
Make Expectations Clear
Many times we assume our children have common sense and they should just automatically understand our home rules. But we can’t expect them to follow rules they don’t know about. We need to tell our kids specific rules if we expect them to keep them. Tell your children “No ball throwing in the house” before you hand them the new bouncy ball.
For example, instead of arguing about whose turn it is to empty the dishwasher, have a system in place. You could rotate magnets on the dishwasher to show who is next. We have three children so they know they each have a job with that clean dishwasher. One child empties the top level, one does the bottom, and the other does the silverware. The more you can systematize chores, homework, afterschool activities and clarify your expectations, the less you will argue about them.
Direct Order or Negotiation?
I was sitting in a parenting seminar with family psychologist John Rosemond and I learned something important from him. Instead of telling our children what to do (“Clean up your toys now”), we now give them long explanations and reasons (“Mommy is going to have a friend over. It would be nice to have the room clean so we can sit down. Please put your toys away. Can you do that for me?”).
See the huge difference? The first statement is a simple order. The second statement is an invitation to argue with your child. Now your child can say, “No I don’t want to put my toys away. I’m still playing with them. Who’s coming over anyway? I don’t like that person.” And before you know it, you’re arguing about everything and anything.
When giving an instruction to your child, don’t open the door for negotiation. Use the fewest amount of words possible (“Clean up your toys now”).
Make an Index Card
In his book Anger: Handling A Powerful Emotion in a Healthy Way, Dr. Gary Chapman suggests this practice when you are angry and arguing. Have an index card on the refrigerator that reads “I’m feeling angry right now, but don’t worry. I’m not going to attack you. But I do need your help. Is this a good time to talk?”
Instead of yelling at each other, you and your kids can use this index card to frame your “discussion” in a positive, constructive way. Explain what the index card means and role-play using it while everyone is happy with one another.
It Takes Two to Tango
The one-sided argument doesn’t last very long. Remember the wise words of Proverbs 15:1, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” If you refuse to get hot under the collar or react emotionally to your child, the arguments will end much sooner. Maybe that means you need to ask your child for space as you go into your room alone, close the door and re-group.
Thomas A Kempis once said, “Be at peace with yourself and then you will be able to bring peace to others.” Seek to be a calmer, more peaceful person yourself and that will rub off on your children.
Think back about last week with your kids. What were the subjects of most of the arguments in your home? Chores? Hurt feelings? Late homework? Annoying siblings? The next time an argument is about to begin, remember it takes two to tango. Clarify your expectations and family rules ahead of time. Make your instructions clear and simple. And when anger starts rising up inside of you, grab that index card and start talking, not arguing.
Arlene Pellicane is a speaker and author of Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World and 31 Days to Becoming a Happy Wife. She has been a guest on the Today Show, Family Life Today, The 700 Club and Turning Point with David Jeremiah. Arlene and her husband James live in San Diego with their three children. Visit Arlene’s website at www.ArlenePellicane.com.
Publication date: June 26, 2015