Skip to main content

Completing the Argument Cycle

 A few weeks ago Phil's cousin, Heidi Dehart, explained an argument cycle to me, and I'm finding it so helpful that I'm writing it here. Who knows? Maybe it'll help other parents.

The argument cycle begins with a disagreement. Big brother found little sister's fake jewelry laying on the couch, and he took them. She begins to scream. (By the way, my kids are 8 and 6.)

Usually at this point I interrupt because screaming is unpleasant and not the way to discuss a problem. But interrupting an argument at this early stage, robs my children of an opportunity for them to work through their emotions, listen to one another, come to an agreement, and make amends. 

I have found that when I interrupt, they rarely listen to me because they're too mad, and the anger that was previously directed at the brother or sister gets transferred to me. The trick is to only interrupt the cycle if we believe their argument will permanently damage personal property or their relationship. This is a hard thing to do as a parent. In fact, I send my children outside to fight because I can't stand it.

So back to the cycle, my daughter starts screaming at my son. He then goes and hides her jewelry where she can't reach it. All the while, she calls him names. In the end, she slaps him with her jacket and he pushes her down. They cry and their anger is spent.

Again, the temptation to interrupt at this point is overwhelming. They are doing each other physical harm; that is not okay! Unfortunately, I've found that when I physically interrupt, it's usually out of my own anger or fear, and I don't make things any better.

However, interrupting with truth words can be helpful, words like: "He pushed you down. That wasn't right." "She slapped you with her jacket. That wasn't right." This sort of talk helps the children assess the situation on their own. 

If they don't already know what to do next, we must teach them. "In our house, we don't call names or hit. You both have broken the rules and need to make things right before you . . . (continue playing, come back inside, have your snack, etc.)" This outlines the rest of the cycle for them.

The children each need to say what they originally wanted and what they did wrong. "I wanted to play with your jewelry so I hid them and pushed you down." Or "I didn't want you to touch my jewelry so I called you names and hit you with my jacket. " 

Next, the children apologize and discuss a solution to their original problem. If they can't come up with a solution, Mom may have suggestions. I also have my children hug, do an act of service, or say 3 kind things to one another to make restitution.

After children have completed their argument cycle, then it's appropriate to give consequences for name calling or physical violence. Note: teaching our kids that hitting and name calling is wrong doesn't mean that we stop them from doing these things, except in the case of possible permanent damage. It means that when they choose to do them, there is a consequence. We want our kids to learn that violence and name calling result in much hassle and repair work so that next time they might not resort to these things.

Yes, this whole thing takes time, and teaching it will most likely take us moms away from something that we'd much rather do. But once the kids know how to complete a cycle on their own, it actually frees us from having to make peace for them every time there's a tiff. 

I think the same sort of cycle can work when grown-ups argue—couples, co-workers, and friends. In fact, the other day I realized I was interrupting the cycle between my husband and my children. I didn't like the way it sounded, so I jumped in. 

If the cycle is constantly interrupted, the children (or adults) don't learn how to work through their anger and disagreements. And if you're doubtful about the effectiveness of this method, just check out how often God interferes with our arguments and makes us behave. Not a lot.

So there you have it. 

Disclaimer: Sometimes the cycle can't be completed because someone stayed up too late or is ill. Also, we have yet to master this cycle, but I have hope that one day we will.

Comments

David Cox said…
Excellent! Love the point that God doesn't usually jump in but wants us to work things out with His wisdom. Helps if we have sought Him for His wisdom that He promises to give if we ask in faith.

Popular posts from this blog

Baptism Testimony

I didn't used to want to be baptized. I was too stubborn. I was determined to be the upright, genuine Christian who wasn't baptized—something of a superior class, I suppose. All that physical symbolism was for the archaic layman or the really emotional sort or the person who's afraid baptism is necessary for salvation. It's not for me. It's not for the steady, reliable believer who's doesn't have a big conversion story. I was in preschool when I prayed the prayer. In 6th grade, I gained a deeper understanding of sin while bickering with my siblings in the backseat of the family van. When I was 16, I began a daily quiet time with the Lord. And now at 36, I'm hearing the Lord asking me to make my faith work. Make the rubber meet the road. Get out of "morbid introspection and into deeds," out of "anxious hesitation and into the storm of events" (Rohr & Ebert, 129-130). Stop retreating into my head to figure out God and salvation

Why the Enneagram Numbers Quarantine

Type 1: The Reformer     I quarantine because it's the right thing to do and everyone ought to be doing their part for society by following the same procedures. Type 2: The Helper     No, I'm not concerned about myself, but I quarantine for everyone else. I want to help my neighbors feel safe, and I would absolutely die if I found out I had passed on the virus to someone else. Type 3: The Performer    I quarantine because that's what's expected of me, right? Plus, think about how bad it would look if I didn't. Type 4: The Individualist     I would've loved to quarantine before all this started but now that everyone is doing it, I'm not so sure I want to follow along. I guess I'll quarantine but somehow find a way to still remain exceptional. Type 5: The Observer     I might quarantine. I might not. I probably will while researching the facts about this virus. When I know enough, I'll make a final decision. Type 6: The Guardian     I q

Wanting the Ends Without the Means

I want my children to learn to get along, But I don't want to hear them fight. I want them to feel their emotions and understand them, But I don't want them to slam doors or be sassy. I want them to be respectful to adults, But I don't want to be embarrassed when they say something totally inappropriate. I want them to choose to obey me, But I don't want to come up with consequences when they don't. I want them to fill their own time with play, But I don't want to clean up the mess when they put stickers on the walls or throw tomatoes over the neighbor's fence or carve into the walls or cut through the upholstery with scissors. I want them to be good. But I don't want to suffer through their becoming good. I want a rich and seasoned relationship with my husband, But I don't want to endure seasons of dryness or coldness or disinterestedness. I want to have friends who are different than me, But I don't want to hear their threatening opinions. I wa