This is often a child’s main driver when an argument is occurring. An angry child will generally just consider “me”…what they want. Missing will be a consideration of “you” and what you may want, and “us” and what is best for the relationship.
When your child uses the word “me” (or a similar word like “mine”, “I”, etc), let it remind you of the two most important words to help invite them other back to a conversation and cooperation…Maybe and Enough.
1) Maybe: if you use this word, you are probably doing two things
- Taking the “one down position” and not resisting their combativeness, so they are less likely to escalate further to try to dominate you. You are not saying yes or no, you are saying maybe…let’s think about it, I’m happy to consider it. Maybe its unfair, maybe its not. Maybe they cannot do it, maybe they can.
- You are inviting them to be even handed. That there may be another possibility. You are inviting them to wonder and be curious, rather than to be dogmatically knowing about how it should be. “Maybe you can…it will depend on other things I guess”.
2) Enough: this word can be used in two ways
- to an angry child, everything is all or nothing, black or white, full or empty, perfect or flawed. If you can use the word “enough”, you are acknowledging that there is a spectrum of possibilities. Things can be fair enough, or even enough, or good enough.
- “Enough!” can also be the word to put a stop to a debate that is going nowhere despite your best efforts, drawing a line in the sand until one or both are calm enough to have a proper conversation where both want to understand each other. “Enough! We are getting nowhere right now. I promise we will talk again, but we need to do it later.” And of course if you say this, you would need to bring it up again later, or else it is just avoidance. Perhaps permission ask first: “Is now a good time to talk about that thing we couldn’t finish because things were too tense?”
When you child is trying to control-combat-avoid with their “me” comments, see if responding with the words “maybe” and “enough” can help bring back a more playful and cooperating interaction.