When you’re raising a child, arguments seem pointless.
Why should anyone have to suffer through a squabble about why their 14-year-old can’t stay out until 2 a.m.?
When you spend a good decade or so having the kinds of disagreements that make you want to scream, it’s easy to develop a dismissive attitude toward your child’s opinions.
But as parents age and children become adults, the lines start to blur.
All of a sudden, the child starts to make sense – maybe even a little more sense than the parent is comfortable with. How should that transition be handled?
Most of these conversations revolve around how the parent in question can accept their child as a bona fide adult.
But what about from the other perspective? The adult child’s role in a disagreement is just as important – and just as tricky to navigate.
If you’re ready to start parsing parental conflicts in a more effective way, read ahead for some tips on how to make it happen.
There’s a reason why “Keep calm and carry on” has become a viral phrase in the last few years. Staying calm is a vital tool – one that precious few people use correctly.
It won’t help your case to yell or get emotional, even if you’re in the right. Staying calm will help you to present clear, focused arguments and avoid getting sidetracked.
Try to be the bigger person. Even if your parents are calling you names, trying to avoid the conversation or refusing to acknowledge your point of view. It doesn’t help to get worked up. If anything, it will just feed into the idea that you’re not mature enough.
When disagreeing with your parents, you need to stay on the higher ground.
Avoid all or nothing statements.
Avoid all or nothing phrases like “you always” or “you never” when arguing. Accusing your mom or dad of doing something 100% of the time is a sure-fire way to put them on the defensive.
Instead, bring up specific examples and use words like “sometimes” or “occasionally.”
When you use “all or nothing” thinking, you cut yourself off from seeing their point of view. You turn your parents into caricatures of themselves instead of well-rounded people who make mistakes.
This approach is important in any argument, but especially during a time where both parties are trying to develop a more nuanced view of the other.
Take a step back if you find yourself doing this when disagreeing with your parents. An argument can quickly turn from a productive disagreement to a petty squabble when one side or the other goes down the rabbit hole of dramatic statements and accusatory language.
Family matters come with decades of baggage that hasn’t been fully unpacked. It’s easy to get sidetracked during a heated argument and think about every perceived injustice you’ve ever suffered.
Stay focused on what you’re talking about. If you’re complaining about how they forgot to ask about your recent work promotion, don’t bring up the time in seventh grade when they missed your school play.
Part of the difficulty of disagreeing with your parents is convincing them to see you as a fellow adult instead of a kid. If you bring up something from your childhood, accomplishing that is going to be very difficult.
It’s frustrating to stay on track when you feel like you have more ammo in your bag, but piling on doesn’t validate an argument. It’s only makes the other person more defensive and less sympathetic to what you’re saying.
Pick your battles.
You can’t disagree on everything if you want a happy relationship with your parents. Even though it might hurt your jaw to grit those teeth, you’ll be happier in the long run if you let some things go.
For example, if your parents eat red meat every day and you’re a staunch vegetarian, don’t bring up the horrors of factory farming when you’re visiting for Christmas. No one wants to be insulted in their own house, and it’s probably not a stand worth taking.
If they criticize or make fun of your vegetarianism, then it’s time to speak up. In general, try to notice the difference between defending your sovereignty as an adult and looking for an excuse to pick a fight.
Create and enforce boundaries.
Remember when you were a teenager and how fiercely you protected your bedroom? No one could go in without your consent. Doing so was a violation of privacy.
That’s how your mind should be. No one can make you upset or force you into a discussion without you agreeing to it. For example, if you don’t want your parents to criticize your parenting skills, shut that topic down as soon as it comes up.
Setting those mental and emotional boundaries will make it easier to stop questions from turning into arguments.
If your mom disagrees with your decision not to breastfeed your child, simply say, “This is my decision, and I’m not going to discuss it with you further.”
If she tries to keep poking you, repeat that sentence. Eventually, she’ll get the message. Parents generally mean well, but they won’t know they’ve stepped over a line unless that line is clearly and consistently drawn.
This strategy is a larger representation of how to disagree with your parents in general. Make it a habit to be respectful of yourself and your parent’s opinions, and things will get easier.