“Nine times out of ten, an argument ends with each of the contestants more firmly convinced than ever that he is absolutely right. … [Even] if you win [an argument], you lose it. … Suppose you triumph over the other [party] and shoot his argument full of holes … Then what? … You have hurt his pride. He will resent your triumph.” –Dale Carnegie
Any parent whose definition of “maintaining household order” includes arguing with their children should think for a moment. Suppose you lay down the law and enforce “because I said so” and push your kids into grudging “cooperation.” Then what? You’ve “won” the immediate argument. But you’ve also “gained” a buildup of hurt pride and resentment—additional fuel for a worse argument next time a difference of opinion surfaces. Do you really want your kids seeing you as a pigheaded bully?
Assuming you don’t, here are the top 10 things not to do next time opinions clash.
- Take it for granted that the way you (or your parents) “always did it” is the right way, period. Refuse to listen to even the most reasonably expressed alternatives.
- Assert your head-of-the-household authority at every opportunity. Invoke “martial law” whenever your kids protest your decisions. They may “do as you say because you say it” if you get tough enough, but they’ll never be convinced there are intelligent reasons behind your opinions.
- Take the attitude that no one under voting age is capable of rational thought. Be condescending and patronizing at every turn: it drives youngsters mad.
- Forbid your kids to contradict or question you, while feeling free to tell them everything that’s wrong with their
- Interrupt with counter-arguments before the other party has a chance to finish two sentences.
- Openly put down not only your children’s opinions, but their intelligence and character for even considering such opinions. For maximum effect, toss in such loaded words as “stupid,” “obstinate,” and “delinquent.”
- While you’re at it, play the prophet and tell them that if they don’t wise up, they’ll end up broke, jobless, and in jail. That gives them something to aspire to, all right.
- Never forgive or forget a misdeed. Add every past transgression to your argument arsenal, emphasizing, “How can I trust you after …”.
- When someone blows up at you, take that as conclusive evidence that they’re totally wrong and impossible to reason with. Use that as the perfect excuse for ignoring any ways you might have contributed to the situation.
- When the dust settles, convince yourself that this time—in contrast to the previous 579—you’ve finally “shown them,” and there will never be another argument. So, no need to consider what you might do differently next time.
If you already have such habits ingrained, you’ll probably need help getting rid of them. Talk to a trusted friend, a therapist, or even your kids themselves about holding you responsible for implementing better behavior. In any case, admit any such action to your kids, with an apology. Counter-intuitive as it may seem, children become more respectful and cooperative when Mom admits she isn’t always right. No psychologist argues with that fact!
Blessings to parents and children of all ages!