The Same Five Arguments You Always Have with Your Kid … Solved


If you ever feel like you’re reliving the same arguments with your kids again and again, it’s not your imagination: You are. Because until something changes, those standoffs will be on auto-replay. For starters, “You have to behave like the parent and remember who’s 37 and who’s 7,” says child development and behavior specialist Betsy Brown Braun, author of You’re Not The Boss Of Me. Here, real-life solutions for avoiding some of the most common arguments parents and kids have — and quelling them when they happen.

“Clean your room!”

Avoid it: “You need to make it very clear to your child what your expectations are about his room — say, ‘I expect you to put your toys in the box.’ (This chore card system uses paint chips to clearly outline each task.) You can give your child a little bit of power by asking him when he thinks is a reasonable time to put away stuff, like before bedtime. And then, clearly state what the consequences will be if he does not get the job done. For example, if he does not put away his toys, he cannot play with them the next day. My sons used to leave their soccer shoes all over the house. I’d collect them, and then they’d be in a cold panic before games and have to leave without the shoes. They learned to clean them up!”

Quell it: “If your child fails to clean up, then have a calm talk. First, explain why he’ll be losing his toy privileges: ‘Because we had an understanding about your room, and you didn’t clean it.’Next, ask what the plan is for him to get the job done. You want him to be successful. It’s important that you not give your child a free pass, or he will learn that you are a wimp who doesn’t mean what she says.”

“No, you can’t have that piece of clothing/that candy bar/that whatever.”

Avoid it: “If you’re going to a store with your child, be clear at the start about what you’re buying — ‘I’m going to the market to get yogurt, milk, and cereal’ or ‘I’m going to Toys ‘R Us to buy Cousin Simone a present.'”

Quell it: “If your child whines about getting something, remind him: ‘I know what you want, remember we talked about why we were coming here — to get Cousin Simone a present.’ And then, you can say ‘I see you want another Barbie, let’s put it on your list for a gift-giving time.’ When your child’s birthday or the holidays roll around, show him that list of nineteen thousand things and have them pick out a few.”

“You’re spending too much time on your iPad.”

Avoid it: “Together with your child, come up the amount of iPad time he can have, keeping in mind that iPads are not babysitters and following the guidelines on how much screen time is healthy.” (The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children engage with TVs, computers, or video games for no more than one to two hours per day, total, and it should be high-quality content.) “Again, be clear about the consequences if a child does watch an iPad for longer than the allocated time. And remember: You need to model the right behavior for him and not always be glued to a tablet or smartphone — kids learn their values not from what you say but from what you do.”

Quell it: “I find that this is the hardest rule for parents, because so many kids are on iPads now. You can say, ‘We agreed that you’d have a half-hour of iPad time, but you were on for longer than that, so no iPad for three days as we agreed.’ If your child says ‘But everyone does it!’ don’t give in. Respond with as few words as possible, to let your child know you mean business. One phrase that works for any number of situations: ‘Regardless of what your friends are doing and what you want, in our family we are not on our iPads for longer than a half hour at a time.’ This acknowledges that you heard what he said, but doesn’t distract from the issue at hand.”

“Do your homework!”

Avoid it: “Before the new school year starts, sit down with your child and say, ‘Let’s discuss what the plan is for homework this year! You can do it right when you get home, after a snack. What do you prefer?’ If a child has after-school activities or sports practice at night, make plans for that, too — perhaps he does some work in the car ride to soccer. And he needs to know what the clear consequence is if he doesn’t do the homework on time — for instance, perhaps you tell him that he won’t have a say in when he gets to do it.”

Quell it: If your child is usually responsible but fails to do one homework assignment, then don’t give a consequence — make sure he gets to his homework before other activities. You could say, ‘We’re off to do family game night, and you’ll be in your room doing homework, but next week you can join back in.’ For a kid who regularly neglects homework, the best consequence is that the child will have to suffer the consequences at school. Ask the teacher what will happen if your child does not do homework, then tell your child.”

“You need to go to sleep, now!”

Avoid it: “There’s really no way to make a child physically go to sleep — it’s impossible! So acknowledge that: ‘You’re the only one who can make your body go to sleep, so you can lie in bed and think about your day or what you are going to do tomorrow.’ That way you’re giving in a bit instead of digging in your feet.”

Quell it: “If a child is insistent, have a discussion. If this is about a TV program your child really wants to see, then Tivo it. If it’s about your child wanting to hang out with older siblings or grownups,  then talk about how when he gets to be 8 he can stay up later but right now his body needs sleep to grow. And if it comes down to it, walk him to his room, close the door and say good night.”




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