How to Get out of the ‘Argue, Yell, Repeat’ Cycle with Your Kids

When you are stuck on the Argue/Yell/Repeat Cycle

New year, new hope…same old arguments. Who else feels like they’re stuck in a ‘argue, yell, repeat’ cycle with your kids?

You are not alone—it happens in houses across the nation. It’s almost as if the kids just want to keep having the same fight no matter how scary/horrid/sad it is. Well, they sort of do.  The truth is most kids do want to keep reliving the same script because as uncomfortable as it is, it is familiar. Also, for many children, they don’t realise that there is a different outcome. Whether it is about mealtime, bedtime, bath or screen time, the kids know this script so well (and let’s face it, the parents do too).

It’s not going to change unless you change it.

Here’s a familiar dance:

You: ‘Time for a bath okay?’ (Child does not move. Responds with tantrum.) You drag them to the tub, or talk about it for 10 minutes before giving in. Repeat again the following night.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Here are my three tips for avoid this dance, and staying off that dance floor.

  1. Focus on the long-term family goal.
  2. Decide where your child can have control. When we make every decision, our kids tend to fight for control.
  3. Teach your child the new plan and make sure they know how you will respond when it goes well and when it doesn’t go well.

Let’s apply these tips to the scenario of the bath time argument.

  1. The goal: my son bathes every night without a fight.
  2. How can you give him some control?
    • Is there a better time for bath time? Maybe when they aren’t so tired?
    • Can the child set a timer 10 minutes before bath? When the timer goes, they can let you know it’s time. When the timer rings, they should say: ‘The timer means bath time. We get books after bath!’  If they don’t follow through, your line might be, ‘The timer is ringing, what does that mean?’ Immediately move into the new plan—act don’t yak!
    • Write it out so that it is all clear to everyone involved. (see chart.) Take time to teach your child the new plan for bath time. If they are:
      • 2 years and under: talk it through with them, with photos or drawings of the steps; you could even make a book.
      • 3 years and up: involve them in creating the written plan
    • EITHER WAY, give your child a new script. Know what you will say to cue them and tell them their lines too.

The yelling happens because it is part of a known script and because we are frustrated to be back in the same situation yet again. If it has happened before, please don’t allow yourself to be surprised when it happens again Instead, plan for it. Yelling stops when we know exactly what is expected and how we will respond when it works and when it doesn’t.

It is okay for your child to feel sad when things go differently from what they want. Try saying, ‘I know you would rather keep playing. It’s okay to be sad. I’m moving forward with our plan. Let me know when you are ready to help out, you can cry if you need to.” That is the way to stop the yelling.



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