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Child Always Argues

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: Your advise is greatly needed in helping my husband and me with our 8- year-old son. I have such a hard time getting him to respond to my requests. It seems like everything I ask of him is a reason for him to argue with me. Any suggestions?

A: Your son is perhaps a little bit ahead of himself developmentally but it sounds as if he may be trying to establish himself as a "big boy" now. He's right on the fringes of being in that pre-adolescent category, he's not a "little kid" (in his view) but he's not about to be a teenager any time soon either. His argumentativeness is both a conscious and unconscious way of separating himself away from you, i.e. being an independent "older kid".

As much as this is annoying behavior, I wouldn't take it personally. Certainly you should not suspend the common courtesy rules of your family just because he doesn't want to "take orders" from you. I would find ways to compliment him more frequently (even though you may be hard pressed to find behavior that warrants praise) and offer to do something he likes to do , one-on -one so he can feel special. On occasion, after one of his argumentative comebacks, ask him in a calm manner, " Is there something bothering you that's making you so angry because you are a kind boy and saying things like you just did is not like you. Take every chance you can get to positively frame who he is,e.g. "You've got a great sense of humor., You're a really good friend to Bobby." Your consistency, in terms of your maintaining a positive, non-judgmental attitude towards him will be his anchor now and as he goes through adolescence.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.


Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

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