NZ Woman's Weekly

Dealing with an argumentative child

Dear Diane,
Our 12-year-old daughter argues back all the time and it’s getting harder and harder to keep my frustration under control. If I say it’s cold, she’ll say it’s hot, and if I ask her to do something relatively simple such as making her bed, it’s unbelievable – the arguments go on forever. I hate to admit this but I often do the job myself just to get some peace. It’s becoming so bad that I limit my interaction with her because I just dread the endless back and forth. My husband isn’t exposed quite so much so he doesn’t understand how despairing I feel. Please don’t suggest talking one-on-one and appealing to her maturity (such as it is), as I’ve tried that and guess what? It became yet another argument!

Sarah B, by email

Dear Sarah,
If you don’t wish to have arguments, the most important change is your deciding that you are not going to argue. When you say ,“It’s cold,” and she says, “It’s hot,” just let it go. If you feel you must say something, stick to describing the situation. “I think it is cold and you think it is hot.” In situations of compliance to a simple request, again, do not get hooked into arguing. Most of us can’t out-argue a determined 12-year-old. Think, “Ask, Tell, No GST.” Ask her to do something. If this doesn’t work, go right over to her and tell her to do it using a quiet, firm voice.

If she doesn’t comply at this point, walk away and get on with your tasks. In your head, say to yourself, “There will be no goods or services (hence the GST approach) until she has done as I have asked. Any approach from her with a counter-argument or a request for goods or services should be met with a pleasant, courteous, “As soon as you have done as I asked, I’d be happy to do that for you.” Expect a lot of blustering and storming off. She may also return to hook you into arguing. If you quietly stick to your guns, she will get faster at realising that you are not there to be argued with.

Diane Levy provides expert answers to your parenting queries. Send your questions to: Diane’s parenting books are available in book shops.

Issue 1541

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