A parent of an obnoxious or argumentative child might believe that their parenting practices are either permitting or enhancing a child’s negative behaviors. However, whether the problems have arisen from a style of parenting or a child’s natural childishness is also an important question. Knowing the root of your child’s argumentative behavior is critical, but arguably more important is how you react to such behavior. Parents should know when to discipline and how to discipline their kids’ argumentative and obnoxious behaviors.
Avoid giving mixed messages. Work as a team with your spouse and the other caretakers of your child to ensure your child is getting consistent messages about his behavior. Discipline your child when he is intentionally obnoxious or argumentative. If you refuse to discipline your child or let some instances of misbehavior slide, you might be confusing him, giving him the message that certain behaviors are acceptable sometimes but not at other times. For example, if your child is rude to his teacher, his teacher will reprimand him, but if you don’t do the same, you’re essentially telling him that “though your school does not allow rudeness, we do allow it here in our house.”
Know when to discipline. Accept your child as a child. Tolerate harmless childish behavior. Childhood should be enjoyable, and some actions that are inappropriate in the adult world are harmless in childhood. Your child’s immaturity will often lead to obnoxious behavior. Differentiating between intentionally being rude and being a child is important. Think before you discipline.
Discipline with words. Expound on why certain behaviors should be avoided. Address the problems in these behaviors at an age-appropriate manner. For example, when telling a younger child that arguing isn’t an appropriate response to a command such as “clean your room,” make it salient to her, such as by reversing the roles: “How would you feel if I got mad at you when you want me to cook you dinner?” But for a teen, address the true issues of the problem, such as the importance of responsibility or fairness in sharing the household chores.
Be the parent. Take the lead and avoid giving into your reactive feelings. An argumentative child wants an argument, but the assumption is that he can argue with you on equal footing. When you negotiate or yield to your child, you are telling him he has the power to argue with your decisions, according to the organization Transformative Parenting, which is a group of counselors, trainers and coaches in Marin County, California. By playing this game with him, you are supporting the idea that your child can intrude on parental decisions. Don’t step down from your position of authority; stand firm in your position as a parent.