How To Fight Fair

by Mark Huttenlocker - Date: 2007-01-26 - Word Count: 578 Share This!

Assertive parenting will be the key to your success. Approaching problems assertively is something new to most parents, however. Most of us, as parents, have vacillated between passive-parenting and aggressive-parenting. In other words, we let our teenager have her way time and time again. Then, when we finally had enough and attempted to set some limits, in came in the form of raging at our child. Then we felt guilty for raging and went back to being passive again.

Here is a method that is neither passive nor aggressive:


Make sure your out-of-control kid understands what a "time-out" is long before any problems occur:

· A time-out is used when people are too mad to discuss a problem rationally.

· A time-out puts time and distance between you and the person you're upset with so that both parties can cool down to prepare for discussion.

· When a problem occurs, allow your out-of-control kid to take a time-out if needed.

· One hour is a good length of time for a time-out.

After one hour (if a time-out was needed), problem-solve using the following guidelines:

1. The two of you will only discuss the problem(s) as long as you are both sitting down. If either of you stands up, there is a break so you can both cool down.

2. The parent delivers an assertive message to get the discussion started:

When you… (state what the out-of-control kid did), I felt… (an emotion - not a thought ). I'd rather you… (kid's new behavior that replaces old behavior).

3. Ask your kid to repeat back what they just heard you say.

4. If your kid does not paraphrase correctly, return to step.

5. If your kid paraphrases correctly, ask open-ended questions and make comments such as:

· What do you think about what I just said?

· What are you feeling right now?

· It must be hard for you to imagine your life being any different.

· It must be difficult being you.

· You look ticked-off, who has been hassling you, how can I help you?

· How long will this (problem) last?

You do not need to tell your out-of-control kid about the rest of the guidelines that you will be using:

6. Slow down. Breathe deep and slow. Talk slow. Move slow.

7. Relax your facial muscles. Make your eyes soft. This will shift your mood and send a clear non-verbal message that you are not out for a fight.

8. Pay attention to what your out-of-control kid is saying. Listen, listen …then listen some more.

9. Paraphrase what you are hearing.

10. Toward the end of the discussion, begin to look at the humor in the situation that has been the focus of discussion. Find something funny about it. Begin to smile. See the problem as becoming less heavy.

11. To close the discussion, give your out-of-control kid a hug.

Note: Parent and child get defensive when talking to one another because there is an emotional link between the two. Think about it. When you don't care about someone (e.g., Joe Blow), it doesn't matter much what that person says of does. But when you love and care for someone -- and when you want that person to love and respect you -- it hurts when they do unloving, uncaring things. And that hurt comes out as anger.

Mom "nags" because her kid is important, and she doesn't want her kid to destroy the relationship. Unfortunately, the kid doesn't know this and views "nagging" as criticism and harassment. As a result, mom's good message gets lost. Use the "Fair Fighting" strategy above to build and maintain the communication bridge between you and your child.

Related Tags: odd, child discipline, oppositional defiant disorder, difficult child, problem child, defiant child

Mark Hutten, M.A., is a family therapist who works with teens and pre-teens experiencing emotional/behavioral problems associated with Oppositional Defiant Disorder and Conduct Disorder. He works with these children and their parents - in their homes. You may visit his website here:

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