Parenting an Argumentative Child

Parenting an irritable kid is hard; throw in the constant need to argue about anything and everything under the sun and we’re talking darn near impossible. Add in defiance, and the wheels start coming off the bus. Unfortunately, this is the lot of some parents, and more than a few adoptive parents.

Everyone has an image of the type of child they will get and the type of parent they will be. No one thinks that they will have a child that will throw a fit because his eggs touched his pancake, or refuses to get into the car for school, or argues with you about the color of the sky. No one ever dreams that there will be days when they lock themselves in the bathroom to avoid their little darling or days when they really really dislike this child that they longed for.

Are Adopted Kids at Greater Risk?

Our guest on the Creating a Family show aired this week, psychiatrist Dr. Russell Barkley, author of Your Defiant Child and Taking Charge of ADHD: The Complete, Authoritative Guide for Parents, says that adopted kids are 3 to 5 times more likely to be diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or Oppositional Defiant Disorder or both than non-adopted kids.

This increased risk is caused by several factors. Their birth parents are more likely to have ADHD, and thus their children are at an increased risk for inheriting ADHD. (Dr. Barkley gave some interesting statistics on the risk of a young person with ADHD having a child before the age of 19 and the percentage of these babies placed for adoption.) Also, adopted kids are more likely to have experienced a less than optimum prenatal and post natal or early childhood environment, which makes them more susceptible to both ADHD and ODD.

What’s a Parent to Do?!?

The good news is that there is a lot that a parent can do to decrease the arguing and defiant behavior. Part of the problem is that parenting difficult kids often brings out the worst in our behavior as well.

Dr. Russell pointed out several characteristics of parents who have been worn down by one of these “high maintenance” kiddos:

  • They tend to be inconsistent in their reactions to their child’s behavior—enforce their rules one day and giving up the next.
  • They often drift towards of extreme discipline with the child—often because nothing else has worked and they have reached the end of their rope.
  • They tend to be emotional and not infrequently depressed.

There are specific things a parent can do to help them be better parents to these challenging kids. I can’t recommend this show enough. We talked about the causes of this behavior, the chances of a child outgrowing this behavior, and practical suggestions on how to parent these kids effectively.


Are you parenting a child that fits this description? Have you found anything that works?

Image credit: amanda tipton