What's Wrong with a Little Arguing?

By Peg Imholte
Certified Love & Logic Facilitator
Family Education & Wellness Specialist
Resource Training & Solutions


Have you ever won an argument with your child? Regardless of whether you felt you won or not, it is helpful to ask yourself, “What really is the point?” Was the overall lesson you were trying to get across one that you were proud to teach?

Everyone wants power, parents and children alike. The challenge is to learn how, as parents, to share that power with your kids. Why is sharing power so important?

It is true that parents need to be in charge in the family. But parents’ attempts to show that they are in charge can lead them to act in ways that can seem mean, even if that is not their intent. How can parents be in charge and “mean business” without seeming “mean”? If parents can learn how to share their power, they will not only have a household that runs more smoothly, but they will model the same respectful behavior they want to see in their children that does not seem mean.

Kids strive to share the power with their parents, but sometimes these attempts can be negative. For example, children sometimes like to see their parents get angry and wrapped up in an argument that the children have created. While this behavior gives kids a sense of power, it is not helpful to them or the family.  When parents decide to allow themselves to get wrapped up in this kind of argument, they give power to their children instead of constructively sharing it with them. Is there another way?

When your children decide they want to drag you into a verbal battle, you can decide to give them the message you aren’t going to get wrapped up in an argument they’ve created. Do not argue with an emotional child. Ignore the content of their argument and comment on the situation without emotion.

An exchange between a parent and child involved in an argument that the child has created and where the parent is not giving away power to their child could sound something like this:

Child: “Can I go to the bonfire party tonight?”

Parent: “No.” (Parent’s response is quiet and calm.)

Child: “But all my friends get to go to this party. That’s not fair.”

Parent: “Probably so.”  (Parent’s response is said calmly, without sarcasm.)

Child: “My friends will miss me. They expect me to be there.”

Parent: “Probably so.” (Again, parent’s response is said slowly and calmly.)

Child: “But I really want to go.”

Parent: “Probably so, and what did I say?”

This back-and-forth between parent and child can go on for some time. However, the child’s argumentative responses will diminish sooner or later if the parent refuses to reply in an emotional, quick, or loud way. It is a lot better to walk away from the conversation calmly than to be frustrated after “losing” the argument and possibly giving in and giving away all of your power as a parent.

In the exchange above, neither parent nor child has all of the power. The child does not wrap their parent up in the conversation or get them angry. The parent does not seem mean just to appear to be in charge. And most importantly, a conversation like this models respectful behavior to the child--and that is a lesson that is worth teaching.