Three Ways To Discourage Children From Arguing

by Dr. Kyle Pruett, Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member
Two children arguing over a sharing a toy

It can be challenging when a child argues with a parent. Dr. Kyle Pruett, clinical professor of child psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine and member of The Goddard School® Educational Advisory Board, offers three ways to diffuse an argument before it escalates. 

  1. Alexander, the main character in Judith Viorst’s wonderful Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, complains that it’s not fair about not getting new sneakers when his brother did. If a child said this to their parent, one strategy would be to say, “It may not seem fair right now because you don’t need new sneakers. When you need something, you usually get it and then it seems fair to you. Those are our family rules.” 
  2. Let’s say that a child is arguing about picking up blocks. Keeping your cool, try turning it into a game. “I’m setting the timer for five minutes, how many blocks do you think you can put away before the timer rings?” If the game route doesn’t work, you may say something like, “I know you want to go to the park. When you put away your blocks then we can go to the park.” 
  3. Don’t fall into the argument trap. If you feel yourself being sucked into the argument vortex, you should stand firmly and silently for 10-30 seconds, breathe a few times and then announce something like “I am not arguing any more.” After doing this a few dozen times, it usually slows the arguing to a tolerable pace. Silence, without the shaming, is a parent’s most powerful tool. 
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