Them's Fightin' Words

Dear Parentworks, 

My 7 year old son is such a wonderful child, he is caring towards his 3 year old brother and other children.  He is very well mannered and usually, a very happy child.  Until now.  Now all he wants to do is ague with me.  For instance,  if it told him that the sky was blue he would say "no it isn't it is white."  I would then tell him "your right it is white but it also has a blue coloring to it."  From there he just takes it away until finally I just give up and say your right.  It doesn't end there.  He will then tell me that I am right and he is wrong, like always.  Everything just turns into a big argument and sometimes I just get so frustrated.  What do I do?  What do I tell him.  This is an everyday thing with him.  He starts this everyday right after school until he goes to bed.  He has been doing this for about 9 months to a year.  I am at my wits end.  So,  if you could give me any good advice I could surely use it. 

- Tired of fighting

Dear Tired,

Sometimes it certainly can feel like we should have named our children Mary (girls or boys) as in "Mary, Mary quite contrary...". When they are going through one of these stages - and please know that this is just a phase - it can often seem like nothing we try is the correct response. Children are continually pushing in their efforts to learn about themselves and their world. Sometimes they are testing empirical scientific information - can the sky be blue and white at the same time? At his age children are learning about the grey areas of life, not just the black and white. Sometimes the reason is because children are really just trying to get our goat because frankly it can be just plain fun to bug our parents. Children can feel pretty powerful knowing they can get to those darn parents of theirs. This is part of the reason why it really doesn't matter what the topic is because the goal can be just to upset the parent. Score! They win! Another consideration, especially since he sounds like such a nice guy, is that it might be "safe" to get into an argument with you. Others in his life that upset him could possibly reject him if he were to take out his anger or frustration on them. So since he feels safe in your love, you might be bearing the brunt of his feelings.

There is no way to really know what the reason is on his part but there are two things you can do. The most simple way is not to play the game. If you know that he will turn any conversation around or into an argument, stop trying to be logical with him and just stay fairly non-committal, "Oh, it seems like that to you?" Don't use sarcasm, just be neutral and let him have his own opinion about the matter. If he tries to engage you, stay out of it, "No, I see what you're saying, I don't really have an opinion one way or the other."  This will put much of the frustration back on him (instead of you) and/or let him know he needs to come up with something else.  A preferable solution is to call him on it when you begin to see the familiar pattern, "I notice whenever I say one thing it seems like you say the opposite...have you ever noticed that? It seems like we're really talking about something more important than just our opinions." Let him know you respect his opinion and that it is important for him to learn to respect other's ideas. Wonder aloud if maybe all this arguing isn't really even about this topic at all and let him know you wonder if maybe he isn't really upset about something else. Let him know that you love him and want to listen to whatever might be troubling him. You don't need to try and fix the problem, just be there to listen and support him in his time of need. He will benefit from this approach and your life can be much simpler.