I have an 8-year-old son, a 6- and a 2-year-old daughter. My son is a model student but really likes to argue. He's extremely stubborn and always right. When he argues with me, I'll correct him and laugh it off when he continues.
Now, I'm a fan of natural consequences, so long as the child is not in any immediate danger. When he argues with other kids at school, for instance, and I learn about it later, I'll explain to him that arguing is not a very good way to make friends. This is a natural consequence that I'm okay with.
Of his two sisters, only the older one is old enough to argue back. She's much more relaxed and considerate than he is (surprise, she has more friends). But she can also be extremely annoying ("What'cha doing? What'cha doing?! Huh?! Huh?! Huh?!"), so the two of them clash a lot.
Unfortunately, the natural consequence of losing friends doesn't exactly apply at home, and my son does worse than arguing with his sisters. Today, he was holding a treasure box and shaking it, which was making a lot of noise. His older sister wanted to know what was in the box, to which he responded by hiding it. When she asked again, he just ignored her. This kind of thing really gets on my nerves, so I asked my son irritably "Why are you being a jerk? She just wants to see what's in it. What do you get by holding out on her?" This made him feel really bad, but he still wouldn't let her see it. He just pouted and sulked. His sister, unable to take a hint, persisted, so I told her "Just leave him alone. He doesn't feel like being nice right now."
I'm sure there's a better way to handle situations like this, but it's hard to think clearly when I get irritated. In the past, my wife and I had a hard copy of "the rules" that helped us by giving us clear consequences (e.g., rudeness will result in being sent to your room) so we didn't have to make quick decisions when these things happened. But there are two problems with having rules like this:
- You end up with a rule for everything, which you have to enforce.
- It's not much of a natural consequence.
So how should I deal with this behavior?