Thursday, March 21, 2013

Escalating Arguments

Picture from google images
When my girls were little we sometimes had escalating arguments.  They went something like this.  I would ask my daughter to put on her shoes.  She would say "NO!"  I would say something like, "Put your shoes on or I will take away your blanket."  She would say "NO!" and start throwing things.  I would say, "Stop throwing things or you will not be able to play with your friend today!"  Now she would be really mad and she would start following me around and hitting me.  I would come up with yet another awful consequence if she didn't stop what she was doing.

Unfortunately, the threats became so numerous I couldn't remember them or even what the original argument was about, and I often didn't follow through with all of the punishments I said I would give.  These were often threats that were just as much a punishment for me as for her.  No blanket, no sleeping.  No friend, no happy time for her or me.  I foolishly thought our arguments were all her fault for being unreasonable, but eventually I got desperate enough to read a parenting book, and I learned a couple of very helpful things about what I was doing wrong to confuse her.

First, the punishment should meet the "crime".  It would have made a lot more sense when my daughter wouldn't put on her shoes, to say something like, "Okay.  Your feet might get cold because it is snowy outside, but we'll pack them in case you change your mind."

Second, I should never give my child a consequence (or threat) that I am not willing to carry out.  If I said it, I had to do it.  My actions had to be consistent with my words. Sometimes I would list some awful consequence (We can't go to Shannon's) and then, realizing what I had said, would pray desperately that she would just do what I had asked.  Being consistent helped my girls to know what would really happen if they didn't do what they were asked to do.  They learned to believe me more, and argue with me less.

Now, there is one case where you can break your word.  Dan said recently that we don't have to keep bad promises, and I believe that.  It is just best if we don't make them.  I can remember a few times when I had to explain to one of my children that the thing I had said I would do was wrong, and I shouldn't have said it, and I wouldn't do it, and could they please forgive me.  It can be hard to come up with a good consequence in the middle of a frustrating situation.  Be patient with them, and with you too.  With practice, you can learn how to avoid escalating arguments.

1 comment:

Michelle said...

I needed that. Thanks.