Coach Advice: Explain Yourself Once and Move On

Posted January 13, 2016 by

Coach Advice: Explain Yourself Once and Move On

Here’s a piece of coaching advice I often find myself giving to parents:

Explain yourself once to your child and then move on.

You can’t solve 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.

Related: Get parenting help from an Empowering Parents Coach. Click here to get started.

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.

“Keep in the forefront of your mind that even at times of high stress, no matter how obnoxious your child’s behavior, you must remain a calm, steady leader.” – Debbie Pincus, MS LMHC, Creator of The Calm Parent AM & PM

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.

We all want to be understood, and we’re sure we can make others understand if only they would listen. My advice is to take the time you would have spent arguing and instead spend a few minutes on self-care.

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

I enjoy working through challenges like this with parents. Consider talking with a Coach for more advice, or share your experience with the Empowering Parents community below. We are here for you.

 

More on Self-Care and Calm Parenting:

Why You Can’t Really “Win” an Argument with Your Child

When Your Home is a Battle-Zone: How to Resolve Conflicts Peacefully

Parenting Resolutions: Your 4-Step Plan to Calm, Positive Parenting

 

About

Darlene Beaulieu is a parent to two teenage daughters, ages 13 and 16. She has been an Empowering Parents Coach since 2009 and has helped thousands of families in that time. She earned her Master’s Degree in Counseling and has worked in school and community settings helping children and families with academic, social, and behavioral issues.

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  1. Alice Report

    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, 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.

    Reply
  2. Alice Report

    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 him 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?

    Reply
    • Empowering Parents Coach Rebecca Wolfenden, 1-on-1 Coach Report

      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. Thank you again for writing in. Take care.

      Reply
  3. Mo Report

    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 then 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 .

    Reply
  4. Suzanne Report

    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.

    Reply
    • Empowering Parents Coach Rebecca Wolfenden, 1-on-1 Coach Report

      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. 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.

      Reply
  5. sue s Report

    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.

    Reply
  6. Paul R. Report

    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.

    Reply
  7. StrugglingRush Report

    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 for 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.

    Reply
  8. endofmytether Report

    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???

    Reply
    • dbeaulieu Report

      endofmytether 

      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.

      Reply
    • 40yearsamom Report

      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 hated that and eventually apologized and begged me to talk to him again.

      Reply
  9. StrugglingRush Report

    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 point 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.

    Reply
  10. Carmen Report

    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 do 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!

    Reply
    • Empowering Parents Coach drowden Report

      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.

      Reply
  11. joeydadof5 Report

    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 they 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

    Reply
  12. Stepmom Shawn Report

    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 that 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*.  🙂

    Reply
    • Momto5boys Report

      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.

      Reply
    • rwolfenden Report

      lusmith 
      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.

      Reply
      • AdoptivMom Report

        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 will have this conversation later’.

        Reply
  13. Frances Mo Report

    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 able 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

    Reply
  14. Charlotte Report

    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.

    Reply
  15. emilyandchad Report

    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?

    Reply
    • rwolfenden Report

      emilyandchad 
      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.

      Reply
    • StrugglingRush Report

      I am asking the same. What happens if they are still ranting and don’t do what you have asked if them? Then what?

      Reply
  16. Paula Report

    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

    Reply
  17. nicholelbutler Report

    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 keep explaining myself over and over!  I’m really very tired of it and the attitude that goes along with it!

    Reply

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