To Argue OR Not T0 Argue…That is the Question!
By Barbara McRae, MCC
In some households arguments are the norm and in others arguing is considered anathema. Whether you like to debate or whether you feel your role as a parent is threatened if you allow heated disputes, it’s easy to get hooked into arguments with adult children.
First, let’s take a look at the distinction between discussing vs. arguing. (A distinction is a coaching tool to better understand the subtleties of language for increasing your awareness.) To discuss means that you are open to defining the problem with the other person, and you’re willing to collaboratively explore options. A discussion takes place when you are solution-oriented.
To argue means that you are quarreling to prove a point without considering the merits of the other person’s position. Arguments can quickly turn into quarrels because the focus is on winning. Arguments ensue when one or both parties are too invested in being “right.” Arguments drain your energy and damage your relationships. Arguments between parents and teens (or twenty-somethings) can be minimized when you establish effective ground rules upfront.
Teens argue because their communication skills still need developing. Their impulse-control is lacking and they literally don’t know what else to do to diffuse their frustration. They are also prone to start an argument without any consideration for timing (i.e., you’re tired, ill, or are having the worst day of your life). That’s why it’s important for you, the parent, to be the leader and model how to polish their communication skills.
To Stop The Arguments:
• Refuse to participate. Notice that it takes two people to argue. Keep from reacting by buying time. Let your teen talk it out without responding; just listen. After your son or daughter and you have calmed down, you can offer to discuss the situation. (If your teen escalates by using fowl language, call a time-out to enforce your previously defined consequence.)
• Define the problem. It’s difficult to solve a problem together without clearly knowing each others’ position. Start with what you believe to be true and ask for clarification. You know you are complete with this step when you can accurately articulate the other’s viewpoint without defending your own. It’s not important to fully understand your teen’s logic; it’s not always possible, and can keep you from moving to the next step.
• Find common ground. Arguments are fueled by focusing on the differences of opinion. To sustain productive discussions, identify your areas of agreement. An agreement can be as simple as realizing that both of you would rather solve your problems than argue.
• Explore possible options. Be solution-focused by brainstorming with each other about mutually acceptable solutions. Identify at least three options (five are even better) before reviewing the feasibility of each one.
• Write down your solution. Be sure to take notes and capture your agreed-upon solution in writing. It makes it easier for each person to remember the agreement. It also provides added accountability for keeping the agreement.
When you use the above steps, you’ll free yourself from having to deal with recurring problems. You’ll no longer be wasting time and exhausting your energy. That’s a promise!
Campus Calm Parenting Expert
Author of Coach Your Teen to Success–7 Simple Steps to Transform Relationships & Enrich Lives. (www.amazon.com). For additional resources, visit www.teenfrontier.com.
© Barbara McRae