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How to Cope with an Argumentative Child

By S.R. Becker ; Updated September 26, 2017
A child who argues might refuse to listen to your side.

Coping with an argumentative child can be infuriating, but you don't have to give in. Remember: You're the parent. According to the Disney Family website, when your child is allowed to get away with arguing excessively, he'll continue and often escalate his behavior over time. However, you can help prevent the worsening of the behavior by showing your child that not only does arguing not work, it has negative consequences. Licensed psychotherapist Caron B. Goode, writing at FamilyCorner.com, advises that planning for an argument helps you circumvent it.

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Listen to your child's argument with your full attention, and show compassion. Let your child know that you'll take his desires into consideration and hopefully arrive at a compromise. According to an article at EmpoweringParents.com, it's important not to be afraid of your child's opinions. By listening to your child without interrupting, you're showing respect rather than fear or disdain.

Explain your rationale to your child, within reason. Don't let her pester you into over-explaining or justifying your stance -- once you've stated the rules, you don't have to state them again. It is acceptable to end an argument with, "Because I'm the parent and you're the child."

Don't engage in the argument. Don't reward arguing by arguing back. If you need to walk away to save your sanity, call a time-out. If necessary, step outside or into a room by yourself and shut the door for a while.

Offer your child choices. For example, if he argues with you about dinner, saying he doesn't like what you're making, offer him the choice of making himself a sandwich instead. If he insists on ordering pizza, repeat calmly and succinctly that pizza is not a choice. Consistency is key when coping with an argumentative child.

State the consequences of arguing and follow through with them. For example, if your child constantly argues for more video games, computer or TV time, take these privileges away altogether. Immediate consequences are effective at curbing argumentative behavior in the moment.

Seek professional help if your child's argumentativeness includes violence, including hitting or tearing objects up. Excessive, out-of-control arguing might be a sign of oppositional defiant disorder, which must be diagnosed and treated by a mental health worker. PsychCentral.com lists frequent tantrums, deliberately annoying others and spiteful, vindictive behavior among the signs of oppositional defiant disorder. If your child is far more argumentative than his peers, a mental health worker can offer strategies to help improve his behavior.

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About the Author

S.R. Becker is a certified yoga teacher based in Queens, N.Y. She has a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and has worked as a writer and editor for more than 15 years. Becker often writes for "Yoga in Astoria," a newsletter about studios throughout New York City.

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