It’s a Thursday night. You’ve just finished eating dinner with your family. You go downstairs to the office to do some work on the family computer.
The door to your office opens and you see your 16-year-old kid standing in the doorway. He tells you he wants to borrow the car to go see a basketball game with his friends tonight. Also mentioned is that he’ll be back before 11pm.
You look out the window. It’s pitch black right now given it’s the middle of winter. You tell your teenager that you don’t think it’s a good idea since it’s a school night and it’s so dark.
What ensues is an argument between you and your teenager. Your teenager starts yelling at you, saying that you’re so unfair and mean. You try and state your point again. But that doesn’t do much good because your teenager only continues to yell.
Has this ever happened to you as a parent?
It feels frustrating when you can’t make your kids understand your reasons behind something. And it is even more disheartening when conversations with your kid result in arguments between the two of you. You start to feel like the worst parent in the world or as if your kid will never like you. And you’re at a loss for how to stop the disrespect.
After getting into an argument with your kid, you can’t help but wonder what you did wrong. Was it what you said? Was it the way you said it? Was it how you said it?
The problem is none other than you didn’t wait until the optimal time to resolve the argument with your kid. When trying to resolve an argument or state your limits with your kids, there is a right time and a wrong time. Choosing the right time to communicate increases the chances of your message being received with respect. Picking the wrong time to communicate your issues decreases your chances of the message being heard.
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.” I think a better adaptation of that phrase is, “It’s not what you say, it’s how and when you say it.” Knowing the right time to resolve a conflict and resume a conversation makes a world of a difference. You reduce the risk of getting into a bad argument, and you also set yourself up as the authoritative figure, someone who is to be respected. You might even reach a consensus with your kid.
So when is the wrong time to resolve a conflict? The answer to this is when either party is feeling emotional or defensive in a negative way. This could be that one person (either you, the parent, or the kid) is feeling angry, sad, bitter, nervous, or anxious. When your kid is feeling emotional, their emotions are said to be running high. They are less inclined to truly listen to what you are saying (and this is probably true for you as well).
It’s when a person’s emotions are running high that they feel more temptation to say what is on the cusp of their mind (even if this isn’t actually how they feel). Your kid is more inclined to say what is hurtful in the hopes of changing your behavior. They may say things that they regret later. If time could be reversed, your kid might not say half the things that came out of their mouth during the argument.
If you do end up in an argument with your kid, avoid taking the things said too personally. Not everything they say reflects how they truly feel. Also, their emotions fluctuate, and you need to remember that their emotions do not define your relationship. This can be incredibly difficult, but it’s worth remembering.
So when is a good time to resolve a conflict? The answer is when neither you or your kid is feeling emotional. During this time, your chances of being understood will be greatly increased (along with your chance of understanding your kid). And what you say is more likely to be respected by your kid. This makes it easier to maintain a positive relationship with your child.
If you do happen to get into a dispute with your kid regarding a certain house rule or limitation, remember that during the dispute is not the time to continue the conversation. Stop trying to make your point heard, listen to your kid, and then tell your kid you will talk more later when they have calmed down. Your kid will listen better when their emotions have gone down. They may not like what is said, but they won’t argue as much.
We’ve all dealt with kids that are determined to argue. They can’t be satisfied with the boundaries that are set in place. When this happens, tell your kid that the final verdict is the limitation you have established, that you acknowledge their feelings, but that you are done talking about the matter. By doing this, you are setting your own boundary of what you are willing to tolerate. Your kid may not be happy with this limitation, but it’s important to uphold it so they know they can’t walk all over you.
What’s Hard About This:
It’s one thing to know this truth; it’s another thing to act on it and remember it. The timing of communicating sensitive information is hard for most people to put into practice. The reason? Because it’s so, so tempting to say what we want to at the moment. We are driven to communicate what is on our mind.
Our emotions are also a driving force behind our actions. When we get into an argument with someone, we are tempted to voice our own beliefs out of sadness and pain. We do this as a way to defend ourselves; we want to explain ourselves to the other person because we suddenly feel hurt.
But having conversations at the wrong time only makes the situation worse. It only exacerbates the feelings of animosity that the two parties have for one another. Explain yourself once and then wait for the other person’s emotions to die down. Wait until both of you are no longer feeling emotional. That way you reduce the risk of making one person feel worse. And you also are able to let the other person know what treatment you are willing to tolerate in your relationship.