Differences of opinion can be handled in more positive ways than arguing.

How to Cope with an Argumentative Child

by Kathryn Hatter

Argumentative individuals can be difficult for even the most patient person, but when your child enjoys a good argument, you may wonder if you will ever be able to manage the disagreements. When your child has a habit of challenging you regularly, it’s time to lay the groundwork for the communication you want within your family. By using tactics that diffuse the tension, you can teach your child better ways of voicing opinions and negotiating agreements.

Set expectations for respectful communication within your family. While it is important for people to voice opinions and share thoughts, respectful dialogue without yelling, using offensive language or calling names is the key to communicating effectively. Tell your child, “I can hear that you have strong opinions and thoughts about various issues. I’m always interested to know what you’re thinking and how you feel. However, I insist that every member of our family speaks respectfully and kindly to each other, even when we disagree. We can talk things out, but only when we communicate respectfully. I promise to listen to you when you speak respectfully. If you become verbally abusive or harassing, I will wait to listen until you speak respectfully.”

Follow your own expectations by speaking respectfully to your children and to others in general. Your example will help your child develop similar communication methods, remind the Children and Families extension of Oklahoma State University.

Provide your child with opportunities for control and power, when possible. When you allow your child to be in charge of some issues or situations, you provide opportunities for developing autonomy and self-assurance, according to psychologist Laura Markham. For example, within reason, you might allow your child to choose her outfit for the day and to choose whether she practices piano or completes homework first.

Diffuse situations by listening actively and employing empathy with your child, suggests psychologist Michael Grayson Conner. Communicating your care and your understanding might help a youngster feel less frustrated and argumentative. Empathy may enable you to hold your ground with your child because your child senses your understanding, which enables him to cooperate.

Stop an exchange when your child argues, advises child and family therapist Andie Weiner. Children can be masterful engagers, pushing buttons expertly to provoke you to argue. Become aware of exchanges so you realize when a respectful conversation shifts into an argument with emotional tirades and defensive insults. When the conversation takes a downward turn, say to your child, “We’ll talk when we both feel calmer. I’m not going to argue with you.”

Walk away from the exchange to give your child a chance to calm down. If you’re feeling frustrated, take a walk or distress yourself with deep breathing or meditating for a few minutes. Reconvene with your child later to finish the discussion.


  • If your efforts don't decrease the argumentativeness of a child, consider possible underlying causes. For example, anger is a symptom of depression. Boys who are depressed may seem angry instead of sad. Or your child could be troubled by an issue he is not comfortable talking about. Encourage your child to talk to you about what is bothering him. Seek counseling or your physician's recommendations if the problem isn't resolved.

About the Author

Kathryn Hatter is a veteran home-school educator, as well as an accomplished gardener, quilter, crocheter, cook, decorator and digital graphics creator. As a regular contributor to Natural News, many of Hatter's Internet publications focus on natural health and parenting. Hatter has also had publication on home improvement websites such as Redbeacon.

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