What Do Chinese Water Torture and Arguing with Children Have in Common?

Imagine yourself lying flat on your back, totally strapped down onto a cold, hard table, unable to move any part of your body. You can't see anything around you because your eyes are covered. You find yourself imprisoned by the enemy and you have no where to go for help. The room is silent except for the slow, steady, drops of water that fall on your forehead.

The longer you lay there, the more uncomfortable you feel. Your body tenses up after each drop of water as you anticipate the next one coming. Your nerves feel frayed as you find yourself helpless and powerless to get out of this situation! You're not sure how much more of this you can take before you lose all sense of sanity. This is exactly what it feels like to a parent whose child constantly argues or whines.

Parents unknowingly become ambushed by their argumentative and/or whining children. It begins when the parent says something like, "No, you can't do that today" and the child refuses to accept the parent's edict. The moment the child begins arguing, he's arming himself with all the reasons he has not to listen to his parent. He is totally focused on getting his way. When a parent argues back to a child, he or she has forgotten who is in control.

Why? Successful parents know better than to get into an argument with their child. It shows the child the parent can be manipulated and swayed. When a parent and child face off and argue with one another, they create a battle ground of wills. The ambush for parents begins when the parent answers back to the arguing child. An invisible web then covers the parent, taking away some of his freedom. The more the parent argues, the stronger the web becomes, draining the parent's energy and taking away his control.

The unfortunate part of this plight is that it leaves no winners. Arguing causes one's blood pressure goes up as the heart beats faster. Muscles in the face and chest begin to tense. There's shortness of breath as the body reacts to the rising emotional feelings. If the parent wins the argument, the child loses and feels angry at the parent, instead of looking at how he created this situation. When the child wins the argument, the parent loses his place of control and power in the relationship. This damages the sense of safety the child has. He needs to know his parent is stronger than he is so he'll be taken care of and kept safe by his parent.

Every time an argument begins to take place, the parent has the emotional memory of past arguments and how unpleasant they were. He may move immediately into a defensive posture, preparing for an ambush. He's determined not to go through the torture of arguing again. Or, he may immediately feel himself drained of energy. He's unsure of himself, afraid of losing control. Either way, the lurking fear of being captured, and the torture that could await him whispers in his mind.

How can a parent avoid getting into this painful predicament? Do not allow yourself to become ambushed by your child's words. When the arguing starts, look your child in the eye and softly say, "I love you too much to argue" and then quickly walk away. As you do, see yourself fleeing toward freedom; no more bondage and torture. You have set yourself free and are once again in control of your children.

MaryLynne White
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