Having the last word is a common desire for children and adults alike. For children, it’s often an effort to exert control in a situation where they feel they don’t have control. Parents, however, may see this behavior as defiance or disrespectful. Geoffrey Putt, PsyD, pediatric psychologist at Akron Children’s Hospital, reminds parents that if children want to have the last word, remain calm and use strategies to get everyone on the same page about expectations, not control.
Tips to help navigate conversations include:
- Acknowledge feelings and rules. If your child feels angry about a situation, remind her it’s okay to feel a certain way but it doesn’t change family rules that are meant to respect one another and keep each other safe.
- Be clear about expectations. Give firm, clear instructions so a child understands why she should comply with requests rather than debating them.
- Don’t feel the need to respond or engage. The longer you engage in debate, the more frustrated everyone may become. A calm response is best, which may mean walking away from the situation.
- Remind children the last word doesn’t mean you win. Let your child know when you’re done talking about a subject and that you don’t need the last word.
“It can be frustrating when children always have something to say after the conversation is over, but as long as the comment does not cross a line in terms of appropriateness then it is generally best to ignore it,” said Dr. Putt. “If children realize that you are not going to engage in a debate or discussion, they will slowly begin to respect that the conversation is over and will begin to move on more quickly.”