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Parenting Matters: 10 ways to better argue with your kids

Kari Wittmann LattClinical Director 360 Youth Services

Kari Wittmann Latta, Clinical Director of 360 Youth Services

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Updated: October 27, 2012 6:04AM

Welcome to the Collaborative Youth Team’s column, “Parenting Matters!” The team is a partnership of 20 youth and family service organizations and agencies. Each month, a different partner will offer practical tips for restoring balance within our families and for building resiliency in our youth. This month’s column is shared by 360 Youth Services.

Ten tips to having a better argument with your kids — you didn’t know that was possible did you?

Parent-child conflict is unavoidable, so it’s ideal to have an understanding of how to make the best of it!

1) First, understand that not all fighting is bad. It can be a great way to air gripes, teach lessons and move toward more peace in the house when done respectfully.

2) Realize that it’s OK to be angry, but just make sure to avoid criticism, sarcasm, judgment and blame. These are toxic and will make any argument automatically go south.

3) Show self-control, respect and empathy as much as possible. Not only do you want to make it easier for your children to hear what you are saying, you are teaching them how to communicate at the same time.

4) Know when to argue. If you are the one bringing up a difficult issue, make sure that both you and your child are calm enough to discuss things rationally. Make sure your child isn’t already in a bad mood about something else, or about to go out with friends.

5) Be concise. If you have a complaint, be brief and don’t lecture or blame. Describe what you have observed without judgment and let your child know clearly and matter-of-factly how you’d like to see the behavior change in the future.

6) Let your child know you are listening. Reflect back what you hear him say in a neutral way and validate the parts that make sense (even if you don’t agree). Your first response to your child’s complaints shouldn’t be about establishing who is right or wrong, it should be about opening up lines of communication. (For example: “It sounds like what is most important to you is …”)

7) Give compliments, credit, reassurance and reinforcement for a job well done whenever possible. Every relationship needs to have a ratio of five positive comments to every negative one to stay on the healthy side. Kids need even more positivity from parents to balance out all the struggles they have. “Fill up their tank” so to speak, and they will have more to give back to you and other family members.

8) If an argument is not going well, it’s OK to put it on pause and try again later (after you’ve done some deep breathing!)

9) Apologize when you get it wrong. Apologizing doesn’t make you look like a weak parent — it is excellent role-modeling and will actually earn you more respect and bring you closer to your child in the end.

10) Throw in some humor when you can. Laughter is the most powerful way to defuse intense emotions and bring people together.

And please remember that if you ever feel your family could use a little extra help with communicating with each other, counseling is always an option to help get families more connected with each other.

Kari Wittmann Latta is clinical director of 360 Youth Services. This column is courtesy of KidsMatter, Collaborative Youth Team facilitator. To access the community resource guide and partner contact information, visit

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