Mother of a 6-year-old boy, K, came to me in the beginning of April; she was very tensed. On enquiring what happened? She said ‘I had booked a summer camp for K, 3 months ago where he was to be busy for 6 hours a day. They just informed that camp is cancelled, as they did not get requisite permissions; Doc, do you know of any camp where I can keep him busy for 4-6 hours? If he remains at home, we will die fighting’.
I was not surprised, as I know more people send kids to summer camps just to keep them occupied than to actually teach them something new!
I also remembered another child of 9, who had come to me, few years back, seriously asking, “Doctor uncle, is my mother suffering from depression? She argues for no reason; most days we end up shouting and screaming; I know I am also wrong but I can not just keep quiet if she wants me to accept what I don’t wish to.”
One of the commonest lament we hear is ‘My child back answers’; answering back is usually more a part of arguing and not casual conversation. Should we not encourage kids to argue? Should we make them accept quietly what we say? Should we expect them to stop the moment we scream/ say, ‘it’s enough!’
I am sure most of you would say an emphatic NO!
We want our children to learn to speak and communicate. We wish them to, someday, become independent thinkers. We also want them to have their own opinion. Well, these are the key factors that explain why children argue with their parents, siblings and friends?
What we parents/ grand parents have to ensure is that our children argue without being disrespectful; without offending seniors/ others.
Easier said than done!
- Many arguments can be avoided if we give the child an option. E.g. You can either eat an apple or orange or drink milk.
- Treat your child with respect, whatever the age; be clear and objective when you speak; don’t use long sentences that may confuse a child and not convey the message; say ‘pick up your books now’ and not ‘do you want to pick up your crayons now?’
- We know that 67% communication is body language; let your body language show patience and not anger or impatience.
- If you yell, “Stop it right now!” and expect to be obeyed; you are conveying that this is how it is done! Your child may obey once but will expect to be obeyed if he tells/ yells, “I don’t want to drink milk.”
- We need to change first: A parent keeps shouting, thinking that once I am heard, I will stop. If we wish our kid to change his behavior; we should start by changing our own.
- Lay down rules when there is peace all around and not when hot argument is on. My daughter B had laid down a rule that N won’t get a chocolate till she is 5 years old. When someone asked N, “Will you eat a chocolate?” She replied, “No, I am not allowed till I am 5” and then turned to B and asked “right, no. Momma”
- If children learn to ask for permission to do any questionable activity, it avoids an argument as child knows since permission is being asked, there is a possibility of hearing a no!”
If we can teach our child the difference between discussion and argument, we would have won a big battle. They should understand that discussions let two people to share their points of view without offending others whereas an argument ends up with one, a winner and the other, a loser!
Dr Chander Asrani, father to three daughters and grand father to one, is a post-graduate in Family Medicine. He has over 35 years in clinical practice, launched www.growingwell.com in 2000 and since then has been writing on various subjects. Know more about him at about.me/drasrani.