Why Kids Argue And How Parents Can Stop It!

by denny hagel on July 22, 2012

"My kids argue constantly with me and it is driving me crazy! No matter what I say they have to have the last word!” Sound familiar?

Nothing pushes a parent’s buttons more than an argumentative child. I actually had a parent tell me one time, “I would pay a million dollars if someone could tell me how to stop my son from arguing with everything I say!” Trust me, I jumped on that one quicker than you can imagine! Ha!

I don’t mean to make light of it. Living in an argumentative atmosphere is like having a poisonous gas permeating the air…it is toxic to the entire family. It kills any sense of peace in the home, keeping everyone on edge and in a constant state of defensiveness.

The first thing to examine is why kids argue with their parents. The answer is simple. Because they can! Children are continuously testing boundaries. They do not do this with malice but as a way to learn about themselves and the world around them which includes relationships with parents, siblings, teachers etc. And when they sense lines of limitation they most often accept them. (Although there are always exceptions to the rule!)

And so the rest of the answer falls on your plate as the one who is responsible to set the boundaries accordingly. The real culprit is the gray hazy line between wanting to allow your children to have a voice and at the same time utilizing healthy communication skills.

But the truth of the matter is that when a child resorts to arguing he either does not have healthy communicating skills or is choosing not to use them.

In either case that becomes your first step in correcting the situation. You must be sure that you have modeled to him a healthy way of communicating and put for the effort to teach him how to use these skills in his life.

The second thing is to understand a child’s motive for arguing. The answer to this is two-fold. One, because they believe they are right and justified in their position and two, they have learned that there is in fact a pay-off for their determination. In other words, they believe they can wear you down, thus, getting what they want.

I have a feeling you have already begun to see how parents can diffuse arguments!

If you are thinking that you have the power to stop an arguing child in their tracks you are absolutely correct!

Arguing is a negative method of communicating. Its purpose is to verbally force one’s wishes or ideas on to the other person.

In order to change the behavior you must change the payoff.

  • Step #1 Be sure your child has an understanding of healthy communication skills.
  • Step#2  Enforce the use of these skills by refusing to participate in any conversation when your child reverts back to using negative skills( ie: arguing)
  • Step#3  Stand your ground! Your refusal to participate means he loses by default…regardless of the topic of the argument. One person cannot create an argument! Therefore, it is stopped in its tracks giving you the opportunity to restate the boundaries of using healthy communication skills.

Following these simple steps consistently will teach your child that his best chance of being heard is to choose to present his thoughts, feelings and desires to you in a respectful healthy manner. When they realize arguing does not pay they will choose a different path!

(**Note Yes, I was able to help that parent stop her son from arguing with her and No, I did not receive the million dollars!!)

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Denny Hagel is a child advocate and parenting coach, devoting over 25 years to the success and well being of all children. She is the published author of over 125 articles on parenting, many of which have attracted international attention in over 24 countries.

Denny was blessed with forward thinking parents who raised her with an understanding of her value as an individual, her innate power to choose by way of her thoughts, ideas, opinions and beliefs, thus, instilling in her a strong sense of personal responsibility for what happens in our lives

She is the founder of Awakened Parenting LLC, a company dedicated to helping parents release parenting paradigms of the past and consciously choose to raise their children to approach life with a positive mindset and strong sense of self. It is Denny’s passion to combine what she learned through her formal education in early childhood education and psychology and what her parents instilled in her and pass this on to all parents.

Denny has created the discussion group "Awakened Parenting Discussion Forum" on Face Book which now has over 600 members.  She does on line coaching with parents and teachers who consult her on a regular basis. Denny collaborates with counselors, authors, coaches and others working in the parent coaching field. Denny Hagel is the author of the newly published "The Missing Secret to Parenting", "The C.P.R. Program for Parents & Teens: Conflict Prevention/Resolution Formula", "Mini-Me Syndrome" and two free e-booklets Parenting Using the Law of Attraction and Becoming an Awakened Parent".




  • http://twitter.com/angiemjordan Angie Jordan

    Great tips!  I love how you speak about making sure that the child has healthy communication skills… Maybe it’s a time to check ourselves as well to see that we are communicating well!

  • Traci Woodside

    Great article!  Communication is ket!

  • http://manifestingmydestiny.com/ Lorii Abela

    Awesome article, Denny. I agree with you. Every parent, or should I say, every person should know the value of having a healthy communication. Coz I think it’s where it all start.

  • http://www.thechoicedrivenlife.com/ Olga

    I remember the days that one of my children was like that; it is soo is wearisome and annoying; it always felt that the whole family was suffering from it. Very precious moments became inflamed because of it. But back then, I didn’t know any different; so happy you inform parents that need your advice Denny!

  • http://www.facebook.com/tara.geissinger1 Tara Geissinger

    I needed this advice right now, thanks! Sometimes it seems my kids (one more than the others) know just how to push my buttons. You are right. I need to diffuse the situation and not respond. 

  • Sue

    Great article Denny.   So much great advice for parents that I would have loved to have had 25+ years ago.  But still great to know when it comes to grandchildren and really any person who uses arguments as a way of communicating.  Thanks for your great insight!

  • http://www.sherievenner.com Sherie Venner

    Another great post,Denny! You cover such great ground in the post from setting boundaries to changing the payoff that kids get when they argue with their parents. Love the advice!

  • http://twitter.com/CoachKimH Kim Hawkins

    Consistency is so key. Arguing for the sake of arguing is so unhealthy. Wonderful post Denny!

  • Vicky

    Great article!  Communication is the key.  Thank you.

  • Heatheramyprice

    I try so hard and so many days I feel like *I’m* losing the argument even when I don’t argue back.  With my 5 year old daughter (multiple special needs) it’s always about something physical I need her to do.  “come here, please”.  “no”.  “time to sit on the potty”.  (we’re trying to potty train) “no”.  So I used to do a lot of full physical prompting (just moving her where I needed to go while keeping my mouth SHUT)— but now she’s almost 60 pounds and crumples into a wet noodle on the ground and I physically cannot lift her anymore unless she cooperates.  So tonight for instance I told her that if she goes potty now she can go to the grocery store with my husband.  She refused to go potty, so I didn’t allow her to go, which meant I had to listen to a 20 minute scream/ cry fest which set my son (VERY sensitive to her outbursts) into a total tailspin.  So I had to separate them and ignore her for a while.  Any suggestions about not just the vocal arguing but the physical cooperation aspect?  thanks— great article!

  • http://carolynhughesthehurthealer.wordpress.com/ Carolyn Hughes

    Great post Denny and you hit the nail on the head for me at the start as you spoke of boundaries. So important to set out what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour. And helping our children to communicate appropriately is a life skill – love your three steps!

  • http://twitter.com/SusanMcKenzieWY Susan McKenzie

    Wow, bingo! Refusing to participate in any conversation that is based on negative communication skills. This goes for all of us kiddos, of any age! This is a bull’s eye, for me! Thank you, Denny!!!

  • http://www.mikemcdonaldfitness.com/ Mike

    Great tips as always. Communication and consistency are important for a child.

  • http://www.bestrealhealth.com/ Pat Moon

    Denny, great points about teaching good communication  skills by modeling. Refusing to participate in an argument is something that resonates with me… I’ve always said, “It takes 2 to make an argument.” I have found through experience when it seems an argument is starting to back off, ask God for wisdom, and He will guide you into how to turn the argument into a constructive conversation. Sometimes the best way to do this is in the form of asking a question such as why the point they are trying to argue about is important to them. It will cause them to evaluate and express themselves in a civil manner. Good communication skills modeled is key.

  • Mary Marriner

    Great article, Denny.  Parents need to be consistent in what they do, and be in agreement as well.

  • http://twitter.com/socialwithsara Sara Nickleberry

    I have to keep in mind consistency. My child is 4 and right now all he wants to do is ask me WHY. UGH!! :)

  • http://www.travelwritingpro.com/ Claudia Looi

    We do have those moments in our home with 2 teens. Step #2 is definitely an important parenting tip.

  • Jessica Stone

    Another great post, Denny!  These are all excellent tips and will be SO helpful for kids when they get older in communicating with a boss, co-workers, spouse, etc.

  • Foxjm77

    Peace in the home is worth seeking wisdom to find! Thank you Denny. Interesting wisdom here,”Arguing is a negative method of communicating. Its purpose is to verbally force one’s wishes or ideas on to the other person.”  A great reminder that we are always teaching our kids about communication. 

  • http://sharonoday.com/ Sharon O’Day

    These are the same skills that will be needed to successfully negotiate the adult world, so the payoff is far greater than just “peace in the valley” while growing up.  Great advice, Denny!

  • http://twitter.com/CarolGiambri Carol Giambri

    Love this.  I grew up in a hostile home.  My brother was really amazingly crazy–he would bang his head against the wall to let out his frustrations.  The whole family was in an uproar most of the time. The sibblings argued and we were controlled by our parents lack of parenting skills. These things still happen today.   My parents were clueless about diffusing the kids differences.

  • http://www.thekidscoach.org.uk/ Naomi

    We often think our children are just trying to be difficult when they argue with us and so argue back. Not the right way to approach it at all Denny is it?

  • http://pristineperception.com/ Suzanne

    Agree 100% and know from experience. They argue because we engage with them. Refuse to engage, the argument doesn’t happen.

  • Ron

    I have to admit this is a hard one for me. My kids are teen-agers now and we don’t live under the same roof anymore.  So there are seldom instances where we find ourselves arguing. But when we do, it’s because I’ve told them something to do or not do, and they’re protesting about it. Simply refusing to say anything else leaves the issue unresolved to me, or at least that’s what it feels like. This one’s gonna take some work and more understanding for me.

  • Theresa Cifali

    HA!  Great advice…and much needed.  We don’t really yell in my house, but my youngest like to challenge me often through what I call backtalk.  Recently my 2 girls tag teamed me by bringing up this issue…they were trying to make a point that what I called backtalk was actually them trying to explain.  I’m sure that on occasion that is exactly what they were trying to do…but I have trouble distinguishing between the two sometimes.  Any suggestions?

  • denny hagel

     The distinguishing factor would be the ‘attitude’ behind their words…my parents were firm on the fact that we could say what was on our minds as long as it was said in a respectful way…in fact it was encouraged, they wanted to hear our thoughts about everything but should attitude rear its head we knew the conversation was over. If we wanted to be heard we quickly learned to be respectful! Thanks for commenting, great question!

  • http://drmommyonline.com/ Dr. Daisy Sutherland

    Love your tips Ms. Denny:) We don’t really have many arguments in our home which is pretty amazing with 5 children…when spats arise we put an end to them rather quickly and usually the child is left speaking to themselves..lol..quite humorous…we’ve also set concrete boundaries that the other children will quickly remind the one child if need be:) Hugs!

  • http://www.socialsavvysarah.com/ Dr. Sarah David

    Denny, understanding how to communicate is so important.   You always give such wonderful advice to keep harmony in the family.

  • http://CarlaJGardiner.com Carla

    Loved the part about “one person can not create an argument”. It took years but I finally learned how to not participate in arguments with hubby and children alike. Great post, Denny…

  • Christiane Marshall

     I bet a lot of parents would pay $100 for that answer! Lol!

  • http://www.edmundslee.com/ Edmund Lee

    I’m glad I’m not a parent yet.  Sheez!

  • http://www.el3mentsofwellness.com/ Carl Mason-Liebenberg

    Hehe, I’m with Edmund. At 45 Ioften think I have missed something in life by not being a parent and then I get these reality checks…lol! Parenting certainly is a prcious gift buta challenge indeed at times. But having you to guide is certainly a blessing to any parent out there reading! :-)

  • http://www.matthewreedcoaching.com/ Matthew Reed

    refusing to argue is powerful. It shuts down so much.

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