As a father of three adult children and three grandchildren who are old enough to talk (and, therefore, old enough to argue) I know a lot about the temptations that can lure you into the Argument Trap. You know what I mean – those circular, relentless conversations that leave you battle-weary and sometimes cause you to say and do things you regret. When my own kids were still at home, I found that, even though I spent nearly every day helping people improve their personal and professional relationships, I could still fall prey to these temptations if I wasn’t careful.
However, as a veteran parent, I have found a strategy that virtually guarantees that I won't fall into this trap again: I filtered my response through ten simple, but critically important questions. Most of the time, recalling even two or three of the questions can be enough to head off a fight and set the stage for constructive dialogue.
If you want to stop the arguing in your home, review this list of questions every day for the next 30 days and watch the transformation begin.
1. Am I under control?
2. Am I setting a good example for my child?
3. Have I carefully listened to my child's thoughts and feelings?
4. Have I acknowledged and empathized with my child's feelings?
5. Do I understand my child's underlying need or want, and have I acknowledged it?
6. Have I expressed my thoughts, feelings, and rationale clearly and honestly?
7. Is the limit or boundary I set reasonable for my child's age?
8. Have I taken advantage of the teachable moment?
9. Am I making sure to address my child's behavior and not attack my child?
10. Am I ready and willing to follow through with appropriate discipline?
Kids can be relentless in their attempts to get what they want and are often unaware of the legitimate need that is below the surface of their insistent demand for attention. Nagging and repeating themselves may signal that they are tired, anxious, hurt, or afraid. In a family dynamic, the child may be reflecting stress in the parents or other siblings. The difficulty as a parent is seeing past your own exhaustion, frustration, or anxiety to notice that the child begging for a popsicle right before dinner may really need a long, tight hug reassuring them that they have not been lost in the shuffle of work, meals, sports, school, and the worries of life.
Of course, the other side of that behavior is that kids can be clever little con artists who know which of your “buttons” can be pushed to get what they want. That’s why they need parents who pause to consider the questions above to respond appropriately to the arguing and whining.
You CAN break free from the Argument Trap... begin your escape today!
Live, Work and Relate Well!