I argued too much as a child. I remember one particular dispute with my older sister who was thirteen. Though I was only eight, my debate skills were college ready. In a fit of exasperation, she exclaimed “You’d argue with a fence post if it would argue back!” and stomped away.
A typical eight-year-old, I took her claim literally. I remember picturing in my mind our fence, with me talking to one of the posts. I didn’t realize at the time that I had crossed a line with my sister. I had won a verbal battle, but I lost the war. I’m pretty sure that whatever I wanted from her, I didn’t get.
Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller, in their book Good and Angry; Exchanging Frustration for Character In You and Your Kids, suggest that arguing happens when kids cross a line, valuing their wants more than people.
The child prone to argue will often start with “Why?” to find ammunition and test your commitment. You view it as a harmless question, and since you have the answer, you give it. Your child responds with “But…” and now you’re off and running.
A child’s questions aren’t bad if the child intends to obey, but some children use questions as manipulative techniques to delay or get their own way. Arguing can become an irritating habit, but even worse, it reflects a serious heart problem. Arguing indicates a lack of honor, a desire to win even if it wounds. And God condemns it: “You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel.” James 4:2
One reason parents tolerate arguing is that they see qualities like persistence, determination, and creativity in their kids. Arguers can communicate their ideas, which is admirable. Turansky and Miller note, “The problem with arguing comes when your child views you as an obstacle, a mountain to tunnel through. The child who argues often lacks sensitivity, humility, and a proper respect for authority. Your challenge as a parent is to encourage the positive qualities and discourage the negative.”
When your child crosses the line and values his or her agenda at the expense of the relationship, stop the dialogue. Refuse to argue. That’s what my sister did, and it worked with me.When your child argues say, “Obey first, then we’ll talk.”
Remember: Winning an argument, even if you’re right, isn’t the primary goal. You want to teach your child to respect authority, value relationship, and communicate with honor.
Do everything without grumbling or arguing,
so that you may be blameless and pure…
Do your children cross the honor line with their arguing?
By James D. Dempsey, Ph.D.
Husband to Gail
Father of three
Grandfather of four
1 Corinthians 13 Parenting Team Member
Presenter for The National Center For Biblical Parenting
Author of Parenting Unchained
Host of the radio show, Parenting Unchained, at LOTOradio.com and AM630, KSLR Radio, San Antonio.
Click HERE for a link to Jim’s book, Parenting Unchained.
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