My 8-year-old and I have a love-yell-at-each-other relationship. She’s smart, funny and stubborn. We have already wandered into the “you’re ruining my life” territory, followed by slammed doors. It is amazing. I find myself fighting (yes, I know it’s against all parenting rules) with my daughter at least once a week. I think we have similar personalities, and when we get mad or frustrated we stop listening to the other person and it ends in a yelling match. My husband shakes his head when we start nipping at each other.
After one particularly rough battle that ended in tears and frustration, she climbed up on my lap and asked “Mom, why do we fight all the time?” I truly had no answer. My youngest is stubborn, but she is much more inclined to apologize quickly and responds to the promise of consequences much easier (while my oldest argues until we end up hollering at each other). Even though I didn’t have an answer then, I was determined to find an answer, because I don’t like being yelled at by anyone, especially my child, and she doesn’t like fighting with me either.
Stop the fighting
Here are a few tips I found that have reduced our fights and made it much easier to communicate:
Have a plan: Debbie Pincus, MS LMHC, says that parents should remind themselves, “No matter how your child acts, he does not control how you behave.” I already know that when my daughter starts arguing with me, I instantly go on defense and start yelling back. If I have a plan of attack before the situation arises, I can avoid yelling at her. I simply have to remind myself that I am not going to yell at her, even if she starts raising her voice at me. Decide not to yell. Decide not to fight.
Get close: Often when my daughter and I start fighting it is after I ask her to do something, without really paying attention. Usually, I am working on an article, finishing chores or doing something else. She does not listen to me because I am not looking at her and asking her to do something. When I have a request, instead of yelling it down the hall or across the room, I will stop what I am doing, call her over and make the request. She still argues sometimes, but not as often.
Listen: My daughter is a good arguer. She tries to negotiate everything I ask her to do. Literally: Everything I ask. I am often torn between awe and frustration. Instead of automatically interrupting her when she begins on her negotiation tactics, I listen. Sometimes, I let her have a few more minutes of play time or make her eat one less bite of vegetables, but sometimes I don’t. When I need to stay firm, I do. However, she feels better having had the chance to discuss the issue and we avoid a fight.
We still have our tiffs (and I am far from perfect), but I hate arguing with her. I love watching her figure things out and talking to her about new things, she is learning. Taking a few minutes to listen and let her express herself has made a world of difference.
How do you control the fighting in your household?