Dealing with Debating

imagesAs moms we get so excited over our child’s first words and then their first sentences. But it is not too terribly long before they use their new-found powers to communicate against us with proclamations of “No” and challenges of our requests and announcements of their own ideas. At age three, I remember my oldest always stating, “Well, I have a better idea!”

Being a good listener is critical for all parents, but engaging in a childish debate with our children weakens the parent child relationship by putting us on their level. Since they cannot reason like an adult, no matter how intelligent they sound, we cannot wow them with our adult logic. It doesn’t make sense to them.
So here are a few life-lines for escaping their debate traps:
1. Show them that you have heard them, but keep your authority.
“I understand you don’t want to wear that to church. That makes sense that you want to wear sweat pants because they are more comfortable. The problem is that dressing up is a sign of respect to God, so today you need to wear the dress pants. You don’t have to like it though, and when you get home you can change right away.” Carry pantless child to car if necessary with dress pants in hand.
2. “I love you too much to argue about that with you.” Multiple uses for this one. If they don’t seem to love YOU this much, tell them that you will write down their point and talk about it later with Dad. Writing down their disagreement helps them feel heard. But then STOP engaging.

3. Why why why …WHY?
“Because Mom and Dad are in charge” is a legitimate response. Also, “I have already told you why, so if that is still confusing to you, I will need to explain this more when you are a little bit older so you will understand it better.”
4. Remember what you DO have control over because it is often NOT your child. You can’t make them eat, or poop, or stop crying, or sleep… But you can refuse to enter into their drama and remain in control over the situation as a whole.
“I know that you aren’t tired and you don’t have to go to sleep, but you do need to stay on your bed right now.”
“You don’t have to eat that, but I will continue to serve that each night until you have tried it. And not trying something means no dessert.”
“You don’t have to stop crying, but I am going to time how long you cry each day, and if it is more than _______minutes, then I bet you are getting too much sugar (not enough sleep)and we will need to make adjustments to help you get your emotions back under your control.
5. Often times the verbal debates are increased because a child feels powerless or needs attention from you. (Even negative attention is more of a reinforcement for a behavior than no attention. ) Set aside predictable time to connect with “the Debator” each day. Build them up. Give them control over certain areas of their life. Teach them who God designed them to be and how much you love exactly how God made them.

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