Indeed, turning around and walking away from an argument or a fight with your child is one of the most effective ways as a parent to put an end to a fight.
But what should you do when your child won’t let you walk away? What if your child follows you to your room and won’t let you disengage from the fight? What if your child is relentless?
Why Kids Try To Prolong the Argument
Disengaging and refusing to argue is one of the best ways to stop power struggles and arguments. But many kids—particularly defiant, oppositional ones—will follow their parents around, prolonging the argument. Why do they do this? Don’t they hate the fighting as much as you do?
When you walk away or stop participating in an argument, you send your child the message that you’re in control. Though they aren’t consciously aware of all of this, they feel the power shift from them to you. You control the situation when you walk away. You win when you walk away—and they don’t want you to win.
So they try to pull you back into the argument to regain control—to ensure that you don’t win. They will try almost anything to keep it going, whether it’s calling you names, throwing things, punching a hole in the wall, or slamming a door.
If they can do something that gets you to react, they feel a whole lot better. And in many cases, they know that if they push all the right buttons, you just might give in to get relief from the torment.
The key is to know how to prevent your child from dragging you back into the fight. Here are some tips to do just that.
When Your Child Follows You Into Your Room to Continue the Argument
Here’s the trick: once you walk away, say no more. Lock the door if you have to and ride out the storm. Even if your child is screaming outside your door or pounding on it with all their might, ignore them.
Do whatever you can to cope until they’ve calmed down.
The second you turn that doorknob to tell them to stop, you’ve given them what they wanted. So put on some headphones, turn up the TV, read a book, knit. Do whatever you have to do to focus your attention away from your child’s behavior.
If they damage something or call you foul names while they’re pounding on your door, give them consequences afterward, when they’ve calmed down. And stick to the consequences.
In other words, ignore their attempts to pull you in when you’re disengaging from them, but hold them accountable for anything they damage (or rules they break) later.
When Your Child Trashes Her Room to Get Your Attention Back
If your child goes to her room and starts to throw things around or screams at the top of her lungs about what a jerk you are or how much she hates you, let her.
If she breaks something of her own, that’s a natural consequence she should face. She will have to buy a replacement on her own. If she makes a mess of the room, she will have to clean it up when things calm down. If she damages the walls, she will have to pay for the repair.
As a rule, it’s most effective to focus on controlling your behavior and emotions rather than your child’s because here’s the truth: you don’t control your child’s behavior, so don’t try to. The best you can do is hold her accountable for her actions.
How to End Phone and Text Message Arguments
If the argument is over the phone or via text message, tell your child that you’re done with the discussion and you will not reply anymore. Then, follow through. Turn the phone off and get involved with something else. You can finish talking later when things are calm again.
If she keeps sending messages, just ignore them. You don’t even have to read them. And try not to be shocked or take personally the things she says. Just know that an irate teen may say anything to drag you back into the fight—to regain control. Don’t take the bait.
How to End Arguments When You’re Driving
The car is one of the most difficult places to get into an argument with your child. The first rule is, pull over if you can. You may not be able to walk away, but you might be able to step outside the car to get some fresh air if it’s safe to do so.
Tell your child you’re not going to continue until they calm down because it’s not safe for you to drive while they’re verbally abusing you or being disruptive. Then, find something to do that will help you cope—your smartphone is perfect in these situations. Read the news, listen to some music, or read this article again!
When You Can’t Walk Away Because You’re Busy
Let’s say, for example, that you‘re cooking dinner and you really can’t walk away. Focus your attention on the task at hand, not your child. Avoid eye contact and ignore any comments he makes under his breath.
Find some sort of mental task to occupy your mind, such as counting or singing a song to yourself in your head. If you have a relatively compliant child who will go to his room when asked, you can tell him to do so. But if your child is defiant, he will probably refuse.
If you can’t make him go to his room, the best alternative is to ignore him. Don’t give his behavior any power. Control what you can—and that’s you.
When Your Child Blocks or Clings to You
Being blocked or clung to is perhaps the most difficult situation to find yourself in when you try to walk away from a fight. If this happens, stay calm, use a normal tone of voice, and tell your child this behavior is not okay.
Then tell them to go do something else to calm down. They’re probably going to continuing their blocking and clinging—at least at first. Remain calm and wait it out. Yes, this might mean that you literally stand there and wait for some time.