“WHY ARE YOU ARGUING WITH ME?!!?”
“WHY DO YOU HAVE TO BE RIGHT ABOUT EVERYTHING!?!!? WHY CAN’T YOU ACCEPT THAT YOU MAY BE WRONG?!?!”
That’s what I wanted to shout at my 7 year old last night when our discussion about where he insisted he left his tablet ended when I found it in the exact place I was sure he had left it. He asserted that he was still right and someone else must have put it there. That was within seconds of when our other conversation about outside playtime and bath time came to an impasse.
I’m tired of arguing with my kid.
Here I am trying to negotiate or have a discussion with the most stubborn 7 year old on the planet. He’s cut from the “I will always be right” cloth. Hmm. This may be a family gene. It bothers me not just because it frustrates the living blazes out of me but also because I see his head-butting with his peers and I see how he is going to be labeled or how it will cause him to lose many friendships – it’s already happening.
My son has traits that are admired in adults and despised in kids. He’s a leader. He’s confident and strong. But confidence, leadership and strength are all for naught if you cannot find ways to resolve and get along.
Most of the time I want to just yell AAAAARRRRRRGGGGGGGHHHHHH and throw my hands in the air. I’m not sure that is the right response, however. This may just lead to him winning every argument for the rest of his life (and losing every acquaintance) because whomever he is arguing with will just storm off in frustration – akin to how my mother-in-law wins every argument.
Raising kids and just plain getting older and (hopefully) maturing has made me revisit and reconsider everything I know about being right and arguing. I love being right. I want to always be right. Who doesn’t?
But I feel like this is a bigger issue than my little boy. I feel America – and maybe the world – has a problem with rational and respectful discourse. We all have opinions on just about everything. Many of us love to express our opinions with the hopes of having people agree with us. But in reality, how often does that really happen? And how often do we just create more frustration in the process?
I want the next generation to be better at it than we are. I want MY next generation to be better at it. I want to use some of the lessons I’ve learned about arguing (i.e. reasonable discussion) to help my kids become problem solvers, not problem creators. I want them to be driven to make the world a better place, but understand that they’ll accomplish more by finding real solutions, not pig-headed, short-sighted goals.
Full disclosure: I am a lawyer.
The age old cliché about lawyers arguing for a living may actually be true. But my job is not about winning, it’s about getting things done. I love to win, but one of the hardest things to accept about arguing is that it’s not about winning. It’s about finding resolutions and common ground. (That’s what politics USED to be about too)
Here’s what I’ve learned:
- You are not going to always change someone’s mind.
- Losing or disrupting personal relationships are not worth it to win an argument – know when to LET IT GO
- Difference in perspective does not make one person right and the other person wrong
I have some new rules about arguing and how I’m going to approach it because I need to live it for my kids to have a chance:
- Explain HOW not WHY
- Avoid mocking or personal attacks – when you call someone a name, you have just put them on notice that they can stop listening to you
- Listen – really listen, don’t just spend the time not talking to prepare your next statement of opinion
- Respect – you are both human beings with something to say
- Open mind – Be open to new evidence or information
- It’s not about winning
This is my #1 lesson: HOW not WHY!
We all have our reasons for WHY we think something is right. How about instead of everyone restating their opinion, their heartfelt reasons over and over again, we actually talked about the implementation of our plan?
Let’s talk about the HOW instead of the WHY. Let’s talk about the process, the plan, the steps towards solution, not the emotional reasons behind the plan. Everyone has a personal fire fueling their opinion. I think we should try to explain the path that we are advocating more than just stating what we want the end result to be.
And, as always, it should be discussion with respect, not personal attacks or name-calling. We will always be challenged for our personal beliefs and our courage, but we can all work on making sure that our contribution is heard by putting it out there with civility and consideration.
How often do we say or hear things like this during a debate?:
- How will your plan work?
- This is how I envision my plan working….
- This is how I see things…
- I see your point and hear what you are saying, however I respectfully disagree because…
- Wow, maybe you’re right, I hadn’t thought of that. Maybe I’ll consider another approach to that problem.
Those statements seem to be pretty infrequent on Facebook pages or online news article comment sections, but they do exist. And I’m hoping this type of discussion can start overtaking the “well, you are an ignorant jackass” comments in time.
So, this is my big focus for discussions with my 7 year old. If he wants to get somewhere with me and with his peers, this is what I want to see more of:
- Why do you want it to be this way?
- Now, tell me how that will work with our current rule and goals.
I am a big believer in the exchange between parents and kids. I do not agree with “fear me, I’m your parent” tactics, I’m more on board with the “hearing each other, but I’m still the boss at the end of the day” style of parenting (insert my plug for How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk).
If you want to sell something to me, don’t tell me why I need it or why it will work, tell me how it will work. I’ll listen much better, I promise. And hopefully, my kids will learn something that will help them long term in personal relationships and future success with life.