7 Ways to Respond to Your Argumentative Child

Dealing with an argumentative child can be challenging for parents. Discover 7 ways to stop kids from constantly arguing about everything.

Argumentative Child“We’re going to watch Ninjago today, because yesterday we watched Rowan Freemaker,” my son announced. They would alternate watching shows, and he usually keeps good track of which show to watch and when. But on this particular day, he was wrong.

“Actually, we watched Ninjago yesterday,” I corrected him, “so today we’re watching Rowan Freemaker.

“No,” he said, standing his ground. “Remember how…” and he continued to fill in the plot of the show, oblivious to the fact that he was recounting a different day.

But despite any attempt to “prove” my point and all the evidence to show otherwise, he continued to argue that he was right.

If you find yourself dealing with an argumentative child as well, you’re not alone.

Maybe it seems like your child always has something arrogant or rude to say whenever you tell her to do something. Perhaps she doesn’t respond well when you correct her. No matter the topic, she argues about anything and everything.

While her argumentative behavior is enough to get you upset, you’re left not knowing what else to do. It doesn’t always warrant typical consequences—it’s more annoying if anything. And for the times when she is disrespectful, no amount of talking to her about it seems to change her behavior.

In a fit of anger, you’ve even told her to stop arguing already. How can you better respond to an argumentative child and avoid raising a “know it all”?

If you’re like me, you can find it difficult to tolerate arguing from kids, from chores to picking which movie to watch. We feel surprised, attacked, and even threatened when they question our authority.

But trying to assert authority in that way not only backfires, but does little to nurture the kind of loving relationship we want to have. Instead, we need to take a deep breath and turn inward to see why these constant arguments trigger a reaction in us in the first place.

Through these methods, you’re respecting your child’s point of view and teaching him how to better convey his ideas. All while providing the firm boundaries he needs—in a respectful and kind way.

Take a look at these seven ways to respond to your argumentative child:

How to Set Boundaries with Kids

1. Appreciate your child’s personality

For any parent with an argumentative child, appreciating her personality can seem impossible. How are you expected to find the good in someone who questions everything you say or outright refuses to listen?

We tend to categorize kids as behaving “good” and “bad,” and not always for fair reasons. “Good” behavior is when they’re playing quietly, doing what we say, and otherwise making life easier… for us. “Bad” behavior, meanwhile, is anything that does the opposite.

If you remove that factor—whether your child is making life easier or harder for you—how might her behavior then be a perk, rather than a hindrance?

Well, for one thing, she’s someone who knows what she believes in and will stand up for it. She’s willing to question authority and isn’t going to allow others to take away her power. She’ll also likely be a good leader, a self-starter, and passionate about anything she puts her mind to.

Not too shabby, right?

It’s not so much about squashing these traits out of her through force, threats, and coercion. Instead, it’s about showing her how to better communicate with others.

Free resource: Struggling with her strong-willed personality? Join my newsletter and grab your copy of 5 Tips to Raising a Strong-Willed Child—at no cost to you. Discover 5 ways to nurture and work with—not against—her inner spirit and strong personality:

5 Tips to Raising a Strong Willed Child

2. Acknowledge your child’s motives

Back when he was younger, I can’t tell you how many times my son insisted on correcting his brothers on just about anything. The minute they said something incorrect or whimsical, he’d step in with the “real” fact.

At first I thought this was an annoying quirk, but after he did this every single time, I asked him, “Why do you feel like you have to correct them?”

To which he responded, “So they don’t keep thinking the wrong things.”

His motive wasn’t to blurt every right answer or squash his brothers’ imagination. His true intent was that they not grow up thinking these wrong statements.

As an adult, I don’t correct my kids over every wrong statement, knowing that they’ll sort it out on their own just fine. But from my son’s point of view, he assumed that not correcting his brothers would mean they’d forever have the wrong information.

We don’t often see the true motivation that drives an argumentative child to press his points over and over. On the surface, all we see is a stubborn child adamant about being right about his own opinion. But dig deep: what could be an underlying reason your child continues to argue?

Maybe he assumes that it’s his place to correct anything he knows to be factually wrong. Perhaps he feels strongly about what he believes, compelled to stand his ground no matter what. Or he needs you to show him you understand where he’s coming from.

Before assuming he’s out to argue about everything, acknowledge his motives. “I can see that this is important to you,” or “It does sometimes feel unfair when we have to go to bed, doesn’t it?”

3. Ask yourself if you could be wrong

As parents, we tend to think we know what we’re talking about. We have “eyes behind our heads” and can monitor every sibling fight. We’re also older, so of course we’re always right, right?

I’m sure you can admit that that isn’t the case at all.

In fact, I learned this all too well when I had jumped in while my kids were arguing about something. I assumed that one of them had been bothering the other, and reprimanded him for doing so. This, of course, led him to argue his side, which “proved” how much he tended to argue.

But after we all calmed down, I realized I was completely wrong. I had stepped in, assuming one thing while being wrong about what had actually happened.

The next time your child insists on something, ask yourself if you could be wrong. We don’t always know everything, and acting like we do doesn’t make for a good example.

After all, we’re not infallible. Many times, we wish we could retract harsh words or hasty actions. We’re angry with our kids, or we yank at our child’s arm a little too hard, coercing him out of a tantrum.

But we can’t undo our mistakes—no way to rewind and change what we’ve done. Instead, we do the next best thing: We apologize.

Child Refuses to Apologize

4. Watch how you behave

As easy as it is to point the finger at your child, ask yourself if you’re argumentative as well. Do you feel compelled to always have the last word?

Kids model the behavior they see, regardless of what we tell them to do. If you have the same tendencies to bicker—whether with others in front of your child or with directly her—she’s more likely to model that same bad behavior.

Be intentional about changing how you speak to her, whether she’s arguing with you or not. Do you need her to clean up her toys? Say so in a respectful tone of voice. Did she do something wrong? Decide whether correcting her is worth the ensuing debate.

The best way to think about how to behave toward her is to imagine how you would like her to behave toward you. Be the person you’d like her to emulate, and more than likely, she’ll follow suit.

5. Reflect back and ask questions

One of the hallmarks of a good listener is to shift the focus to the person they’re listening to, so she feels heard, and understood. And two of the best ways to do this is to reflect back what the other person said, and to ask questions.

Rather than debating with your child, start by reflecting back and describing what she had said.

Let’s say she refuses to eat the meal you spent so much time cooking. You might say, “It looks like you don’t want to eat the chicken. Is that right?”

Then you can ask follow-up questions so you can better understand where she’s coming from. “What don’t you like about it?” She might respond that she doesn’t like the black beans, at which point you can then ask, “Hmm, what should we do about that?”

She might come up with her own solutions, like moving the beans to the side of the plate or taking five bites of the beans and leaving the rest. Case solved.

She’s less defensive because she feels heard and understood. And by asking questions, you’re working with her to solve a problem together, rather than engaging in another epic battle.

Child Refuses to Eat

6. Show your child how to say it better

Behind the haughty attitude or incessant arguing is likely a good point your child is trying to make. Rather than squashing her ideas or points, show her how to say them in a better way.

Let’s say she doesn’t want to do homework right after eating her snack. Start by nipping her tone of voice or choice of words in the bud. “It’s okay to disagree, but we have to do it respectfully. You wouldn’t like it if someone said that to you in that tone of voice.”

Be firm about setting expectations and house rules of how family members ought to treat one another.

Then, with patience, model how she can express herself. Offer the words she can use, and say them in a tone of voice that’s more respectful than what she had said. “I get that you want to relax after coming home from school. You can say, ‘I’ll relax for 15 minutes then start on my homework’.”

Argumentative kids may not know how to actually get their points across in a different way. Sometimes, the best solution is to give concrete examples, teaching them how to better communicate while still honoring what they have to say.

7. Let it go

Hearing your child question you can make you want to prove yourself or assert your authority. But step back a moment and see what it’s like to be in his shoes right now.

Maybe, given his age, what he continues to assert is all he knows (even if he’s technically wrong). Perhaps being in this argumentative environment is making him feel more and more defensive, instead of open to new ideas.

Instead of drawing up your own defenses, be the “bigger person” and let it go.

He wants to wear his plaid pants with his striped shirt? Sure. He insists that the spoons go on the left of the plate and the forks go on the right? Let him think so. He’d rather brush his teeth right before leaving for school instead of after breakfast? So long as he keeps his word, fine.

Because I bet that 90% of the times you argue with him, it’s over these small issues. Focus on the ones that matter and let the rest go.

The best part? By letting go, he’s better able to let his own arguments go, as well. When he sees how you stay calm and can “agree to disagree,” he doesn’t feel compelled to argue his point to the death, too.


Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Dealing with your child’s behavior can add stress to even the most patient parent’s day. But by first working from within instead of engaging in even more arguments, you can turn things around.

Start by acknowledging your child’s motives so you can see that he’s not out to make life miserable, but feels strongly about his point. Appreciate the perks of his personality, so that you can learn to nurture them in a healthy way.

Ask yourself if you’re wrong about your own arguments, and model the kind of behavior you want him to follow. Then, instead of launching into your own line of defenses, reflect back what he had said, and ask questions on how to move forward.

And finally, ask yourself if engaging in another argument is worth it. If not, then let it go—not as a sign of defeat, but because life shouldn’t be wasted on petty things.

After all, at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter if you watch Ninjago two days in a row, right?

p.s. Check out Baditude! What to Do When Life Stinks! by Julia Cook, a children’s book to help your child turn negative situations around:

Baditude by Julia Cook

Don’t forget: Join my newsletter and grab your free copy of 5 Tips to Raising a Strong-Willed Child:

5 Tips to Raising a Strong Willed Child

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


  1. We have a six year old son who is in first grade. When he does something that he shouldn’t and we begin to engage in a conversation about whatever has happened, he begins to get defensive, angry and frustrated. He immediately tries to stop the conversation so we are unable to engage in a productive conversation to help him in learning from these moments. We want him to be able to learn and grow from each experience, but it’s almost like he can’t see beyond being told what he is not doing what he is supposed to. I think he sees it as a failure. We want to help him manage his emotions, but have been running into immediate anger. It has been discouraging as we know he is fully capable of treating us better as his parents as he treats others with kindness. We engage conversations regularly on how to manage this challenge. I recognize as parents we have the toughest job raising individuals. I just want to be able to help him through this phase of not being able to express his emotions appropriately especially toward us. We have struggled with him starting to talk back and act as if he is the adult in the house. We don’t want to raise our voices as much as we have been lately. It’s exhausting and not changing any behavior. I am open to your thoughts and any recommendations you might be able to provide.

    I appreciate you taking the time to read through this.

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      It’s definitely rough when kids get defensive at the slightest hint of being disciplined. One thing that helps me is to start with what they SHOULD do before saying what they did wrong.

      For instance, our garage door automatically closes/slams if you just let it go, but having a dog makes it dangerous. Instead of saying, “Don’t slam the door,” I start by saying, “Hold onto the door when you close it.” Then, I follow it with a reason like, “That way it doesn’t slam shut in case the dog pokes his head through.”

      Another thing that helps is to praise the process, not the final product. If kids are afraid to fail, it might be because they see it as a “bad” thing, instead of one that’s inevitable in any learning process. Besides praising him for the goals he achieves, praise him for the process that it took to get there. You might say, “I like how you kept trying to shoot the ball in the hoop, even when it got hard.” Or “That’s great you’re finding different ways to solve the puzzle.”

      I hope that helps, Sara <3

  2. We struggle with my child’s health issues. It’s exhausting for both of us, especially for me as her sole parent.

    Oddly she has a strong argumentative voice with me, but lacks a backbone with self confident peers and others in authority. She lets them steal her power and this worries me as well.

    My daughter lacks self confidence and is choosing friends who are weaker than her and becomes overly assertive with them.

    At this point, I’m frustrated with trying to “raise her up” to a more positive place for it seems to backfire on us.

    We argue the most in the evenings when we’re both tired, and in the mornings. The fighting always happens when we’re on a time crunch and I have to push her to get ready or when I need time to focus on something else. It seems like I have to be on her or watching her in order for her to complete anything. 🙁

    I know she hears me, but doesn’t act and then I find myself reminding her constantly to do something and before you know it I’m blowing up and saying things I regret. 🙁 Her lack of urgency and ignoring me feels disrespectful in the sense that she has no regard for what I say or my rules I’ve tried to implement at home.

    I’m tired of being in this bad cycle with her and it seems that whatever I try to do to break it doesn’t work. The threats and taking away privileges is never ending, makes us both miserable and has taught her to be negative and downtrodden which is impacting other areas of her life. She still can’t see the connection to her behavior and how her choosing to ignore me is causing problems.

    She has a therapist and I’m looking into a child psychiatrist for her, but even having to go this route is upsetting for us. So I’m hoping any advice you may have to send me will help.

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      I can imagine it’s been rough dealing with not only her medical conditions, but her behavioral challenges as well. It’s especially difficult being in an endless cycle that doesn’t seem to end.

      It’s great though that you’re taking the time to learn more about how to communicate with her to break that cycle. One thing that can help is to literally “start over” and have a conversation with her wanting to change things. Start from a place of humility and empathy, sharing that you’ve made mistakes that you know has made the relationship difficult. Apologize for the role you’ve played, and talk about how you feel and the goals you’d like to have with her.

      Ask her for her suggestions on what you can do to help turn things around. Be open to her suggestions, and don’t feel compelled to come up with a solution right away, but instead work together to come up with a new solution that works for the both of you.

      And don’t think of reaching out for professional help as a bad thing. We wouldn’t shame others if they had to go to the doctor for an ailment for physical things, and the same is true for mental health. This is a positive step that will hopefully help.