How to Neutralize Arguing

Dear Kid Whisperer,

I have a seven year old daughter. I love her very much but she is driving me crazy. Any time things don’t go exactly her way, she argues with me and asks why things aren’t exactly the way she wants them to be. I feel like I spend a majority of our time together arguing with her. We used to have fun together and now it seems like we are at each other’s throats all of the time. Is there a way that I can stop the arguing so that I can have my life back? –Annette


So many parents and educators come to me with this question. Isn’t it amazing how destructive even a little bit of arguing can be? Often, parents can find that while they used to spend time with their kids playing in the park, cooking, or going to the movies, once kids start arguing with us, we often find ourselves locked into time and energy-sucking arguments instead. Arguing is worse than worthless, it is hurtful. When we argue with kids, it teaches them that they can get what they want and manipulate situations to their advantage by being nasty. Of course, this is a false lesson that we want them to avoid learning.

So here’s the good news and the answer to your question: Yes, there is a quick, simple, and easy way to make sure that you never, never, ever have to argue with your daughter again! It is the first Love and Logic ® skill that I teach because if kids can get you to argue with them, they will be able to short circuit any other strategies we use in order to set and enforce limits! Even though I deal with children every working day of my life, I have not been sucked into an argument with a child since I learned this skill nine years ago!

So I know what you’re thinking: TELL ME HOW TO DO IT ALREADY!!!!!

Fair enough. No need to yell. This is an example of a Love and Logic® response to arguing. I use it all the time. I don’t mind using it all the time because, as with everything Love and Logic, it is low stress and highly effective. This is example taken from my experience as a teacher.

Kid: Why do we have to do these spelling words all week? I already know them. Why do I have to keep practicing them?

Kid Whisperer: Love you too much to argue.

Kid: Why won’t you answer a simple question?

Kid Whisperer: Love you too much to argue.

Kid: This is sooo stupid.

Kid Whisperer: I argue at 12:45 and 4:00 daily. Which time is best for you? (To class) OK, my friends, I have noticed how hard you have worked on your spelling… (The Kid Whisperer walks away from the Kid, teaching enthusiastically)

Kid: (To no one in particular now) But we are at lunch at 12:45. We’re at home at 4:00… ugh. Forget this!

Always keep this in the forefront of your mind when dealing with your child:

Kids exhibit behaviors that work for them.

If arguing has always gotten your child what she wants, and has over a period of time, she will continue that behavior. The more it works, the more it is reinforced and the stronger the behavior will become. Keep in mind, arguing “works” when she either gets the tangible thing that she wants “I want that candy and I want it now and if you don’t give it to me you are a bad mommy”. Also, it “works” for your child if you argue with her. It is highly entertaining for a child to control the actions of an adult by merely using a few argumentative words! It is fun to watch an adult get angry! Arguing is a great way for a child to get attention. So even if she doesn’t get her way, by merely arguing with her, you are reinforcing her arguing behavior. If you don’t argue with her, she will stop! You may be surprised how quickly this behavior is neutralized.


Feel free to try this out and be sure to comment here to let me know how it’s going. Good luck and have fun with your new skill!

The Kid Whisperer