This Is The #1 MISTAKE You Make When Arguing With Your Kids

Photo: Getty Images
This Is The #1 MISTAKE You Make When Arguing With Your Kids

In an article on Barking up the Wrong Tree, writer Eric Barker equates trying to talk to out of control kids to what an FBI hostage negotiator must go through.

Sure, your nine-year-old son probably shows heinous acts of violence (video games don't count) and your teenage daughter isn't going to barricade herself in a room with hostages (if she's a teenager, the last thing she wants is to be locked in her room with a bunch of boring adults). 

However, Barker points out that many of the same principals of hostage negotiating work when applied to communicating with your kids.

The number one mistake that parents make is to deny what their child is feeling. When you deny your child's feelings by saying things like, "Don't cry," or, "You're not hungry; you just ate," you're sending a message that their feelings aren't valid and that it's not ok to feel what they're feeling.

It's frustrating for anyone to get that message. As an adult, if someone tells me, "Don't be mad," it actually makes me mad, even if I wasn't angry in the first place.

Here are a few other tips to help communicate and deal with your child (and negotiating in an intense situation).

1. Be a brilliant listener.

It really doesn't matter how old you are, we all want to be heard. Your kid can tell when you aren't really listening to them and it hurts them. Give them your full attention and focus on what they're saying.

2. Give your child's feelings a name.

Instead of invalidating their feeling, acknowledge them by saying things like, "It must make you sad when Jake has to go home to his house," or, "Yes, the waves can be scary if you're not used to them, but I promise to be right here with you and not let go of your hand."

By labeling the real feelings your child has, you'll give them the words they'll need to express themselves, and you'll show them what it means to be empathetic and compassionate.

3. Demonstrate your interest in what they're saying by asking questions.

You want to work out your child's hidden emotional needs, not get into a big argument or a logical debate. When you ask questions, you can get to the root of what's actually bothering your child, which will help to diffuse the tension.

We all want to feel as if we're really being heard and that our feelings matter. When you deny what someone is feeling, you negate everything and no one likes that. We all need to feel the feels and if we're denied, we get out-of-control.

Christine Schoenwald is a writer and performer. She's had articles in The Los Angeles Times, Salon, and Woman's Day. Visit her website or and her Instagram.

Editor's Note: This article was originally posted on April 1, 2016 and was updated with the latest information.