Q: My 15-year-old daughter is slowly driving me insane! She argues with me about everything and always wants the last word. No matter how well I explain the “why?” of a decision to her, she argues. Even when I offer a compromise, she argues. It’s her way or the highway. Is there a solution?
A: Yes, but you may not like it. Solving this problem requires that you admit YOU have caused it, not your daughter. It is not her hormones, her age, or some inborn stubbornness that propels these arguments. YOU cause them by explaining yourself to her. In so doing, you fling wide the door to argument, which she charges through before you can shut it. Then you blame her for capitalizing on an opportunity YOU presented.
To end these counterproductive arguments, you must give your daughter the last word. Yes, you read that right. After all, you have never “won” the last word in an argument with her, and you never will. You can obtain the last word only with someone who will consider your point of view rationally. A child cannot understand an adult’s point of view; therefore, you cannot win the last word in any conflict with your daughter. Has your daughter ever agreed with one of your explanations? Has she ever said, “You know, Mom, when you explain yourself like that, I can’t help but agree”? No, and she never will. If a child does not like a parent’s decision, the child will not like the explanation the parent gives to support it. Period.
Giving your daughter the last word involves four steps:
First, when your daughter does not like a decision you have made and demands an explanation, give her one that does not require more than five words, as in, “You’re not old enough” or “No time for that” – what I call Neanderthal answers.
Second, when she begins to scoff, scream, mock, or otherwise demonstrate contempt for your explanation, as in, “That is the dumbest reason I’ve ever heard!” agree with her. Just say, “Oh, of course, if I was your age, I’d think the same thing. Yes, I remember thinking the same thing when my mother gave me reasons of that sort. You and I are a lot alike, dear daughter.”
Third, walk away. I call this “pulling the plug on the power struggle.” You simply leave the scene and let your daughter “stew in her own juices.”
Fourth, if she comes after you and tries to badger, just say, “Oh, yes, I’d have badgered my mother too. And my mom wouldn’t have changed her mind, either, but you’re welcome to give it the old college try.
By following this simple, four-step approach, you are guaranteed to drive your daughter crazy.
Being younger than you, she can handle it better.
Family psychologist John Rosemond: johnrosemond.com, parentguru.com.