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Helping My 8 Year Old Son Not Be So Argumentative And Headstrong

by Cindy
(Jacksonville, FL)

My son is 8 and seems to have a need to argue most things and feel like he is always right, getting the last word in. He many times ignores adult instruction including myself, his dad (less so), and his teacher.

His dad and I were divorced when he was 4 and I have been remarried for 2 years with 3 stepchildren, 2 of which are here on a part-time basis. He has bonded well with his Step-dad and is with us 60-70% of the time and the rest with his Dad.

He can be an intense little boy who is very bright and in his head most of the time. He prefers to be with adults and his need to argue, boss and counter alienates classmates who then don't want to play with him which hurts his feelings.

His Dad and I have always presented a united front and have been amicable all along. He seems to have a need to see the glass as half empty and I can't seem to help him see it differently.

He displays the same pattern over and over. Misbehaves, whines, won't listen, or argues, then receives consequences and is terribly sorry for his actions. I know it is a way of gaining my attention and strive to make sure he has positive time with me so that he doesn't feel the need to seek negative attention.

I am frustrated and feel very helpless that I can't seem to help him be happy and develop good social skills/behavior. Any words of help you can impart are much appreciated.

I just downloaded your EFT for Kids and am looking forward to sharing with him. I just started learning about it and have done it with him a few times which he seemed responsive to. I am eager to learn from your manual which is specifically for kids.

Many thanks for your willingness to reach out to a stranger across the Atlantic!

Kind Regards,

Comments for Helping My 8 Year Old Son Not Be So Argumentative And Headstrong

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Problem Solving And Negotiation
by: Annie Desantis

Hi Cindy,

You will find EFT a great tool for kids to learn, and I am sure you both will find it really useful.

However, for the issues you are describing, unless there is a specific outcome your son is looking for, EFT may not be so useful for the things you are describing. Most of what you are talking about are YOUR problems with him. (Of course you can tap out out your frustrations with him!!) And most certainly, if you can see him getting frustrated and angry, you can help him tap and put words to how he feels. But EFT won't work if you just want to impose a behavioral change on him! He has to want to work on something, or want something different.

Firstly, some of this sounds like his personality, being dominant, argumentative and bossy! It may take him a bit longer to learn empathy and to see his effect on others before he acts. Children react and act without having the rational ability to think through and process if their reactions are the best way to behave, and some of this will develop over time.

More Positive Attention

I also think you are right, he is wanting attention, and well done for trying to balance with more positive interactions with him. The more you can increase the good stuff the better, and the less he will need to push back all the time.

You didn't mention if your step children are older or younger than him, I am picking older? It sounds like a good part of his social development has been around adults or older children, and that would all contribute to the way he is around his peers in several ways. Firstly, if he is probably used to being bossed around by lots of older people, so is pushing back and actually it is a good thing he is not being passive, tho it is hard to deal with it! He will be playing out both his frustrations at being bossed all the time, but also will be testing out his power in situations where he feels he has more. Unfortunately it backfires as most likely what he really wants is some friends.

Part Two Follows . . .

Problem Solving And Negotiation - Part Two
by: Annie Desantis

Problem Solving Skills

In terms of the pattern at home, I would approach it all from a point of we have a problem to solve, and we can work on this together. Rather than how can I make him behave better. If you can engage him to helping to find some solutions, then he is learning to think more about how he can get a better outcome.

Firstly, you have to help him to express what he sees as the problem. And from his perspective, it is not just him behaving badly. You know what you find difficult, but there will be aspects of that that drive him nuts - maybe being nagged, maybe being interrupted when he is engrossed in something, maybe always being bossed around.

Rather than blaming him and wanting him to help come up with a better way to behave, you want to focus on WE have a problem. Talk about the things that you don't like about your behavior more than the things he is doing wrong. Like: "I really hate when I end up yelling at you to get you to do something" or "We have a problem here - I want you do do things when I ask, and we seem to often get into a battle with it. I want us to work together to see if we can find a better way to make our relationship happier"

You also want to be affirming in him, your confidence in him that he will have some good ideas to try. When we as parents just keep imposing our rules or requirements on our kids, they don't actually learn to think for themselves or realize there are other ways to get what you need. So we get locked into a power struggle of trying to force them to comply to our ideas of good behavior. We forget that what our kids are doing at the time - to them - is more important than our demands. So instead of simply enforcing our power as the adult (which is what he has learned to do with his peers) - it would be much more productive if you all worked together to find better ways to get things done, or get what you need.

He may not even be aware of what he needs, he is simply reacting to being bossed around and resisting as a way of claiming a bit of power. If you approach it from a position of lets make this work better TOGETHER - then he gets a chance to start thinking about what he needs, and learning better ways to get those needs met.

Part Three Follows . . . .

Problem Solving And Negotiation - Part Three
by: Annie Desantis

Developing Rational Thinking

The ability to think rationally, is a brain development - the neural pathways actually have to grow. When we get locked into a familiar pattern of reacting or behaving, then those pathways don't get to fire, to help us move from survival thinking to rational choices.

We often expect our kids to behave just because we have said this is what you do. We don't always do that ourselves, and we don't always realize learning to behave differently takes time and practice.

Our job as parents is to help our kids learn to think for themselves, to identify what they need and find ways to meet those needs at the same time as respecting others. Power over, is not a good model to teach that, and yet as parents it is often the most dominant way we try to teach our children. Do as I say or get punished if you don't. Much more empowering and useful all round if we help our kids learn the skills of problem solving and negotiation.

Clearly he is a bright little boy, and once he starts to feel he has a say and can learn to negotiate and find other ways to get attention, then he will not have to keep pushing back so much.

When you think about it, the majority of our kids lives are dictated to by adults. Of course as parents we hold the bigger vision of what needs to happen on a daily basis. But if we help our kids to speak up for their needs and learn to negotiate win/win solutions, then we are giving them some great skills for life.

You are doing a great job with him, and obviously love him deeply and want to empower him. Using EFT and being creative about changing dynamics that are not getting the outcome you both want, will make some great shifts, and help him enormously.

Feel free to make any further comments via the comments link below.

Best of luck Cindy,
Annie D :)

Thank you!
by: Cindy Dunlop

Dear Annie,

I can't thank you enough for taking the time to respond with so much thought and an obvious caring spirit. I resonated greatly with your comments and realize that his being bossed around by his 11 year old stepbrother has exacerbated his need for power which he displays at school and acting out at me. In order to "correct" his behavior I in turn have been dictatorial which is obviously not working. Thank you for so kindly pointing out that it needs to be a joint effort in solving the current dynamics. I just couldn't see it until you pointed it out.

I so appreciate your words of wisdom.

With great appreciation!


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