Here’s a piece of parenting advice I often find myself giving to the parents I coach:

“Explain yourself once to your child and then move on.”

You usually can’t end an argument—or make a child do something—by trying to make them understand and agree with you.

The fact is, they don’t understand you. They’re going to see things differently. Children and adults have different perspectives. Parents can spend a lot of time and energy trying to make a child accept their logic. It’s just not going to happen.

This is a tough pill to swallow for parents. We all feel like things would be easier if only our children understood why we want them to do certain things. But most kids are not interested in the “why” and many are not even capable of understanding the “why.” And forcing the issue just makes it worse. Here’s what you can do instead.

Listen to Your Child

When your child argues about a decision you’ve made or a limit you have set, listen to them. Tell them you admire them for sharing their opinions and fighting for their cause. But you don’t have to give in and you don’t have to keep explaining your reasons.

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Walk Away When Necessary

It can be very empowering to walk away from an unresolved argument. Different perspectives don’t have to be reconciled. It’s fine for your child to be unhappy or disappointed. And you don’t have to be drawn into an argument, it’s up to you to participate in an argument.

Work on Your Own Self-Care

We all want to be understood, and we’re sure we can make others understand us if they would only listen. My advice is to take the time you would have spent arguing and instead spend a few minutes on self-care—go for a walk, read a book, give your mind a break from your child’s behavior.

Explain yourself once and move on. You’ll have a lot more energy as a result.

Final Thoughts

I really enjoy working through challenges like this with parents and watching them succeed at improving their child’s behavior. If you want to talk with me or one of my fellow parent coaches then definitely consider parent coaching and sign up for a phone session today. We would love to work with you.

Also, take a look at these resources for some more practical parenting advice:

1) Watch James Lehman Explain Effective Consequences

2) Do Your Kids Respect You? 9 Ways to Change Their Attitude

3) Disrespectful Child or Teen? 5 Things Not to Do as a Parent

Warmest Regards,

Denise, Empowering Parents Coach

Related Content:
Challenging Parenting Issues: 5 of the Hardest Things Parents Face
Encouragement and Empowerment for Moms (With FREE Parenting Mantras!)

Empowering Parents Podcast:
Apple, Spotify


Denise Rowden is a parent of two adult children and has been a parenting coach since 2010. She has worked in Special Education, Alternative Education and adolescent group homes. She has a BS in Psychology from the University of Southern Maine and is currently working on her Life Coach certification from the International Coach Federation.

Comments (31)
  • Another Alice
    What if the point you are trying to make is that it’s time to stop whatever much more fun thing it is they’re doing and go to bed? If I say it once and go away, I’ve still lost the power struggle, because he’ll carry on doing what he likesMore and won’t go to bed. It happened today. He just defied me and went into another room to fetch more pens and then carried on colouring.
  • Alice
    To Paul: Does your child have ADHD and Oppositional Defiant Disorder, which are neurologic medical disorders? If not, then you are truly blessed. We love and show our love to our son every single day. We taught him rules and limits, as well as ethics, morals,More respect, forgiveness, and kindness. It did not seem to matter or change his behaviors at all. God bless you and your loving child! We love our child too, and hopefully through our continued love and therapy, he will eventually turn our like we raised him to be.
  • Alice
    This is great advice. Our son had excellent behavior (i.e. very cooperative, loving, and snuggly) until he was about 3 1/2 years old. I wish I knew how to do this when my son was 3 1/2 to 8 years old. I over-explained everything, which only gave himMore more time to refuse, demand, scream, hide, and tantrum. Over time, I learned that if I just got into the car, he would eventually stop the drama in about 5 to 15 minutes and then move on. However, this was extremely exhausting day after day after day after day after day....After four solid years of this type of defiant behavior and drama, I felt very physically and emotionally drained almost every time I had to set limits with our son. So, I sat back and asked my husband handle it. Now, he is almost 13 years old and still struggles with hearing, "NO" from us, but not as intense as he used to be (i.e. tantrums, breaking things, screaming for up to 45 minutes, trying to negotiate, slamming doors, threatening, and saying mean things to us). This is still very exhausting for both of us. I feel much older and literally worn out more than I ever thought I would be in life. Does it ever end?
  • Rebecca Wolfenden, Parent Coach
    Thank you for letting us know, and I’m sorry that you had such a tough time accessing the links contained in the article above. They appear to be working now. If you continue to have difficulty, you might check your firewall or security settings on your internet connection.More Thank you again for writing in. Take care.
  • Mo
    Ah good luck with that- but honestly 9 years old...14 years old...things change a fair bit. I feel you're not out of the woods yet, in fact you haven't got near them. Sorry to sound mean- but I too thought if I did all things well with my boys thenMore teen years must surely be open, honest and respectful. Sadly, they've been pretty horrendous with my first 2 sons and my delightful, well behaved 3rd son is 12. I'm bracing myself haha .
  • Suzanne

    I really need help (rather, my husband, our 14 year old daughter, and I do)!

    It's difficult to know where to begin.

    My husband and I are not on the same parenting page with our daughter. As a former teacher, I'm a big believer in structure. I think following a routine (homework, personal responsibilities) and established rules (with incentives and consequences) gives children and teens peace of mind and empowers them by working to accomplish goals. My daughter and I were extremely close until about almost two years ago. I understand the shift to try to become more independent is natural but believe limits must be set. My husband disagrees with me and has taken the role of the fun, popular parent. I am characterized by my husband and daughter as being overbearing, an overanxious worrywart, negative, critical... My husband doesn't think our daughter should have to do chores, have limits with her cell phone or social media. We disagree about nutrition (he's a junk food addict and scoffs at the meals I prepare; she has followed his lead). She has acne issues that bother her tremendously and is on prescribed topical skincare products but if I remind her to wash her hands, face, or make-up brushes, she and my husband become defensive, angry, and accuse me of being a nag. The same thing usually happens if I ask her to change her (pillowcase) bedding or use a clean wash cloth & towel when she takes a shower. I'm not trying to turn her into a germaphobe or make her feel self conscious or develop OCD, as my husband claims I am (in front of her). I just her to be healthy and practice good hygiene.

    Many of her friends are sexually active, experiment with drinking (some smoke marijuana) and dress promiscuously. In the last year, she has started to dress in very tight, revealing clothes, has experimented with drinking, and has been frequently dishonest (ex. -about schoolwork, things she's not supposed to have/post of her phone, etc.).

    I want her to be proud of her body but not dress inappropriately. It's so difficult to have a conversation with her about this because my husband takes her shopping and allows her to buy the revealing clothes. The battles (the two of them vs. me) are close to incessant - about her excessive social life (she is only in 8th grade), late curfews, no consequences, slacking on academics. I can't let this continue because what he allows is making her more and more self-entitled and allowing her to be in situations where she is at risk. He doesn't understand we need to instill rules that will guide her to learn privileges and trust are earned, not given. I'm worried for her future; that she won't have the tools she needs to be responsible, succeed, and be safe. I'm frightened she may end up in a relationship where she is disrespected because that's what she observes. We need help in becoming a closer, happier family with more peace, honesty, and love and way less stress.

    • Rebecca Wolfenden, Parent Coach
      It sounds like you are in a really difficult situation right now with your husband and your daughter. It can be so hard when you feel as though your spouse and child are teaming up against you and I’m glad that you are here reaching out for support. More At this point, I recommend talking with your husband privately during a calm time, and trying to get on the same page. As explained in Differences in Parenting? How Your Child May Be Using it Against You, if your daughter doesn’t see you as a united front, she is likely to use that to her advantage. If you are having difficulty finding common ground with your husband, it can be useful to involve a neutral third party, such as a marriage-family counselor, who can help you to resolve your differences and move forward more effectively. For more information about resources available in your area, try contacting the 211 Helpline at 1-800-273-6222. 211 is an information and referral service which connects people with supports in their community. I recognize what a difficult situation this must be for you, and I wish you and your family all the best. Take care.
  • sue s

    We had the same situation with a fc, she was influenced by another child. She went to stay with another foster carer for two weeks. I did not see her at all in that time. However I emailed her and left lots of nice messages and simple 'hugs' and 'xx' and got some photos out to go over some good memories.

    it worked and she demanded to come back.

  • Paul R.

    I honestly do not agree. Respect is what you nurture in your child from day one. I have a 9 year old son. He is respectful to me and to all other he comes in contact with. I believe that a child must be taught values, ethics, and morals. These are in my opinion the basics of building an understanding of right and wrong. Or maybe I'm just naive and my surprise awaits.

    This is what I feel today. This is not to sat that in his teen year I might encounter bad behavior. But I seriously doubt that. Time will be the judge of that.

    I believe that parenting is a learning skill and one must provide to the child's development through interaction and diologue. Today parents are so busy that they do not spend valuable time in rearing the child. I believe an idisrespectful child is a product of less parenting. Being to busy is just an excuse.

  • StrugglingRush
    My daughter has went to her friends house for a few days because she "doesn't want to be my daughter anymore". Her friends mother is a retired attorney that cooks all day and she's getting princess treatment. She says my daughter is really happy there. I need this time forMore self care but I have no idea when to have her come back home. Yesterday when she came home get a few things. She acted as though she was still upset with me and simply ignored me when I told her that I love her. This is beyond heartbreaking.
  • endofmytether
    My 13 year old constantly shouts she also interrupts me whenever I attempt to talk to her, how do I say my piece once and walk away when I know she hasn't a clue what I have said as she was too busy screeching over what I was saying???
    • Darlene EP


      We hear from parents often about

      similar situations, so just know you are not alone in dealing with this type of

      behavior. You are not going to be able to communicate with your daughter when

      she is shouting and screeching. That is a time where you should be walking away

      and removing yourself from the power struggle. During a calm time you can try

      and talk to her again. If she starts to interrupt you and yell at you again,

      you will have to walk away again. This will show her that you are not going to

      get into a power struggle with her no matter how hard she tries. For more on

      this check out the article by Sara Bean,  https://us-mg5.mail.yahoo.com/neo/launch?.rand=c7d0muaqjtiag.

       Thank you for writing in.

    • 40yearsamom
      She will need you for something eventually. I didn't speak to my son for three days once because of this kind of behavior. When he came to ask me for something i just looked him in the eye, said nothing and continued with my business. He hatedMore that and eventually apologized and begged me to talk to him again.
  • StrugglingRush
    Well my daughter decided she is leaving to go stay with a friend after getting caught lie in and taking back her phone that she's grounded from while I was running errands. The mother aged to take her and I don't know what else to do at this pointMore but the mother does have 28 years experience in the juvenile court system. My daughter went to the bus stop with two bags and no plans on returning. I'm heartbroken but hopeful.
  • Carmen Rita
    But what can I do when my 14 yo daughter do not do what I am asking for, I am a single mother and I am taking care of her since she was born. It is hard for me. When she was seven she said she was going to doMore always the opposite of what I will ask her. I applied the total transformation program at that age and worked pretty good but because she is gifted child she learned the program as well and she always find the way to break the rule. To answer me, and to have the last word. She said this morning why do I always have the reason and is not true, I don't always have the reason but she is under my care and I am her mother and she has to do what I am asking her to do ( talking about her chores) other than that she is free to have her own thoughts, free of mind is something she has that I didn't have. Still the is costing me my health. What else can I do to make her understand that whether she likes it or not I have the last word ? I am not a dictator I just set rules in my place, like if I don't start making a list since I get inside my house there will be no place to sit or place to walk in there. Help!
    • DeniseR_ParentalSupport

      Carmen Rita

      I hear you. It can be frustrating and exhausting when your

      child always has to have the last word. Unfortunately, there really isn’t

      anything you can do to make your daughter understand that you should have the

      last word. As discussed in the above blog, you can’t solve an argument or end a

      power struggle by making your child understand your perspective.  Instead,

      we would recommend focusing on what you do have control over – namely how you

      respond to your daughter when she tries to pull you into an argument. For

      example, if there are certain chores you want her to do, tell her what she

      needs to do and then walk away. You could also link one of her privileges to

      her getting those tasks done. You could say to her something like “When you’ve

      completed your chores, I’ll turn your cell phone back on” or “I would like you

      to load the dish washer, sweep the floor, and take out the trash. When those

      things are complete, you can go on the computer”. It’s going to be important to

      walk away after you’ve given her these directions. Don’t respond if  she

      talks back or tries todraw you into an argument.

      Responding to these types of behaviors will only give them more power. You can

      also check out the article https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/backtalk-should-you-ignore-it/ for more tips on dealing with backtalk. I hope you

      find this information useful. Good luck to you and your daughter moving

      forward. Take care.

  • Blessed Dad of 5
    I have come to learn as a single dad of 5 wonderful boys that our "perspective" on issues and house rules will be so far from one another that I have come to be satisfied with them simply letting me re-emphasize the rule that they have broken and that theyMore simply "get it" that there is a consequence awaiting them...i have tried deliberately not to argue because it feels to me like I am "reducing" myself from a father/mother role (since their mother left) to a fellow teen "peer" of theirs which puts me at an immediate disadvantage. I praise them for communicating their opinions/feelings and validate their "feelings" which bridges a gap between the 2 of our perspectives but I always leave the moment with them understanding I love them but the "consequence" is their's to own
  • Stepmom Shawn
    What timing! I just got into "it" with my stepson last night over the state of his room. He, of course, did not agree with my reasoning for the need for him to keep his room neat and tidy, especially before our cleaning people come. I tried to explain thatMore their job is to clean, not pick up his dirty clothes on the floor. I, unfortunately, kept trying to get him to understand where I was coming from. This did not go well, needless to say. The anger on both our parts began to escalate. I realized, later, that I need to make my case and then let it sit. I'm not sure why I feel the need to try to reason with him. So, reading this now really is perfect timing. It reinforces what I know I need to do next time. And I know there will be a next time... *sigh*.  :)
    • Momto5boys

      Stepmom Shawn   i have also found that texting the "request" or information is very helpful, example: The cleaning people will be here tomorrow, THEY will need your room to be picked up by 10am. Thanks!

      First of all, it takes the emotion on both sides out of the equation and it creates a record for those times when they say "you didn't tell me" or "I didn't know" that was the expectation.  It works especially well with older teens that don't like the feeling of a parent telling them what to do.

  • lusmith
    What happens if they just keep asking why and won't let you get away...?
    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport


      You ask a great question! 

      Many times, kids will continue to ask questions and not let the parent walk

      away as a way to control the situation, and continue the argument.  In

      these situations, I recommend ending your part of the interaction because it’s

      something you can control.  You cannot control your child or “make” them

      stop asking questions; you can control, however, whether or not you

      respond.  You might find more useful information in our article https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/sick-of-your-kids-backtalk-heres-how-to-stop-it/.  Take care.

      • AdoptivMom
        A friend of mine once told me that when she has a child that doesn't stop, she will tell them. 'I love you too much to argue with you so I'm going to be quite now and walk away. If you need to asks more questions then we willMore have this conversation later'.
  • Mom to a 13 yr old
    I've heard this advice over and over and I can say it's true. So true.
  • Frances Mo
    Good advice- I don't often manage to think clearly like this, but when I have I feel proud of myself and it definitely works.  Last week my youngest son, my husband and I were to go to his school for a meeting, meaning that my husband would not be ableMore to drive my 2nd son to his sports club for the usual time that suits him.  I said "We are going to have to leave the house at this time (an hour earlier than would have suited him!) so if you want a lift you can take your things and do homework or whatever at the centre"  NO WAY! was his aggressive and very predictable outburst.  He tried to provoke me into the usual banter back and forth.  I simply stated that it was either that time or he could walk.  Again more shouting and anger from him and without my return usual response, he stormed off to his room,  In fact, I said no more, got into the car at the time I arranged, and looked up to see stroppy man child rushing to the door with his school bag.  I struggled to hide my smile, but I did manage- I'm not that silly!  It was only a very small success in what has been months, more than a year, of difficult upsetting times.  I've a long way to go, but reading these articles really help me.  Thank you so much
  • Progressing Mom
    This was very informative. I am a mother of two girls ages 8 and 11. I do find myself repeating myself consistently to get my point across.
  • emilyandchad
    So once you explain yourself and walk away, what should you do if your child continues to whine/cry/beg/bargain/etc? Just let them fizzle out and ignore them until they do? No threats of punishment or sending them to their room, etc. if they don't stop?
    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport


      You ask a common

      question that we frequently hear from parents.  It’s not typically

      effective to threaten punishments or try to make kids go to their rooms if they

      continue to argue with you, or are upset by the limit you are setting. 

      What tends to happen is that this causes this situation to escalate even

      more.  In addition, you might also be inadvertently reinforcing this type

      of whining/crying/bargaining response by giving it attention.  Thus, as

      advised in the blog above, I recommend walking away or otherwise disengaging

      from your child after you have set this limit.  You can find more on this

      situation in our article https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/how-to-walk-away-from-a-fight-with-your-child-why-its-harder-than-you-think/. 

      Thank you for writing in; take care.

    • StrugglingRush
      I am asking the same. What happens if they are still ranting and don't do what you have asked if them? Then what?
  • Judi
    I think this is good advice, it would have saved me a lot of arguments!
  • Paula
    I have a 14 yr old goes to school when he wants comes home when he wants smokes marijuana I work 2-10pm and my husband works in different cities my aunt stays and takes care of the little one
  • NicholeB
    Thank you for this valuable information.  I often find myself arguing with my son's and it becomes very frustrating for me and often just wares me out.  I've tried to say it once and walk away but it seems like they keep going and then I have to just keepMore explaining myself over and over!  I'm really very tired of it and the attitude that goes along with it!
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