How to Deal With a Child Who Always Has to Be Right
As a parent, it can be very frustrating dealing with a child who always thinks they are right, even when they are clearly wrong. This stubbornness and unwillingness to admit fault can cause arguments and negatively impact the relationship. However, there are effective strategies parents can use to handle a child who always has to be right.
Understand Where the Behavior Comes From
First, it is important to understand where this behavior originates. Children who always think they are right likely struggle with the following:
Lack of Impulse Control
Young children in particular have not yet developed strong impulse control. This means they blurt things out without thinking first. When they say something wrong, their first instinct is to defend their position rather than admit fault.
Some kids have an excessive amount of pride. They hate being wrong and will adamantly defend their position to protect their ego. For them, admitting fault feels like a blow to their self-esteem.
Ironically, some bossy kids act this way due to insecurity. They want to establish control and be right to compensate for other areas where they lack confidence. Being right makes them feel strong and secure.
Need for Attention
Other children constantly think they are right because they crave attention. Arguing with others and refusing to back down feeds their need for attention.
Lack of Empathy
Kids who cannot see another person’s perspective also struggle to admit when they are mistaken. If they cannot understand why someone else would be right, they assume they must be correct.
As a parent, understanding the root causes of this behavior puts you in a better position to address it effectively.
When your child stubbornly refuses to admit fault, it is essential to keep your cool. Arguing and yelling at them will not convince them to back down. More likely, it will provoke them to intensify their position.
Speak calmly and resist the urge to match their intensity. Say something like, “I understand you are very sure you are right about this. But it’s also okay to admit you made a mistake. Let’s talk about this.” Modeling a calm, mature demeanor shows them how to properly handle the situation.
Listen to Their Perspective
Allow your child to explain their viewpoint. Actively listening shows that you respect their opinion, even when disagreeing with it. Avoid interrupting them or getting defensive as they speak.
Paraphrase their main points back to them so they know you understand where they are coming from. Then ask curious questions that get them thinking more objectively about the situation.
Listening enables you to find holes in their argument that allow you to slowly persuade them to your perspective.
When an argument arises, look for opportunities to compromise. Offer concessions that allow you both to be partly right, rather than insisting that you are 100% correct.
You might say, “How about we agree that you did have the right idea, but your delivery was disrespectful, so let’s work on that.” This allows the child to salvage some pride while also acknowledging their mistake.
Compromising prevents the standoff where no one backs down. It puts you on the same team, working together to find the best solution.
Use “I” Statements
Avoid accusatory “you” statements like, “You are being so stubborn right now.” This automatically provokes defensiveness. Instead, use “I” statements:
“I feel very frustrated when we cannot come to an agreement.”
“I would appreciate if we could compromise on this.”
This non-confrontational approach makes it easier for the child to lower their defenses.
Provide an Example
If a child refuses to budge from their position, provide an unbiased example that illustrates your perspective. This could be a story, analogy, or scenario that gets them to see things from your point of view.
Hearing the rationale from an outside source that has no emotional stake in the situation can help them think more logically. Use this storytelling technique to gently guide them to the right conclusion.
Give Them an Out
Give your child an “out” where they can concede the argument without losing face. Say something like:
“I know when I was your age, I argued with my parents too. I thought I knew everything! Then one day I realized maybe they had some good points too.”
This shows it is normal to make youthful mistakes and heavier life experience can lead to changing perspectives. They can use this rationale to back down gracefully.
Focus on the Future
If the child remains adamant, drop the argument for now. Continuing to berate them for past mistakes is unproductive. Instead, focus the conversation on future improvement.
“Alright, I don’t want to argue anymore. Let’s talk about how we can try to understand each other’s points better in the future.”
Switching to a forward-thinking mindset gets the conversation out of the confrontational loop so you can work towards positive change.
Use Natural Consequences
In some cases, it is best to allow the child to make their mistake and deal with the natural consequences. Of course, the situation must not be dangerous or overly damaging.
However, facing real-world outcomes for being wrong is often the most effective learning experience. For example, allow them to take the bike route they insisted was right, only to discover for themselves it led nowhere. The mistake becomes the “teacher.”
Enforce Rules Consistently
Children relentlessly test boundaries. So when rules are broken, consistently enforce the consequences every time. Avoid caving in just to end battles. Stick to the punishment and follow through.
Seeing that the rules apply equally at all times, whether they protest loudly or not, discourages endless arguing just to get their way. Consistency removes the incentive to fight authority.
Discuss How Arguments Impact Relationships
Have an open discussion about how the constant arguing makes you and others feel. “When you won’t admit mistakes, it makes me not want to be around you.” Help them see how it strains the relationship over time.
This motivates children to change, knowing their stubbornness damages the connection with you and other family members. It becomes clear compromising is better than always being “right.”
Set a Good Example
Model admitting when you are wrong in interactions with your child. Say, “You were right, I made a mistake here. Let me fix it.” Children mimic their parents’ behavior. Seeing you handle being wrong gracefully gives them permission to do the same.
Also, praise your child when they do show maturity by admitting a mistake. Let them know how proud it makes you and how much you respect their humility.
Do Not Seek Constant Perfection
Accept that it is normal for your developing child to make many mistakes in judgment. Do not demand perfection or scold every minor error. Find balance, allowing some faults to slide while addressing more significant issues.
Children should not feel pressure to be perfectly right all the time. Offer unconditional support to bolster their self-esteem. As they mature, they will naturally gain perspective and objectivity.
Role Play Scenarios
Use role play to rehearse admitting fault in a non-threatening context. Trade positions where they play you and get to practice being the “right” one. Make a game of it, using silly scenarios where both sides can be laughably wrong.
Role playing builds awareness that helps them view real disputes more rationally. It also takes off the pressure since the stakes are lower.
Seek Professional Help
In extreme cases, a child absolutely refuses to budge no matter what tactics you try. They lack empathy, struggle academically, and have no desire to please authority figures. This may indicate an underlying issue such as oppositional defiant disorder.
Consult your pediatrician and seek professional counseling. A therapist can help address the root causes of power struggles and teach better coping skills. Medication may even be recommended.
Implement Rewards and Consequences
For younger children, a reward system can motivate behavior change. Praise and offer a treat when they act mature by admitting a mistake. To encourage progress, the reward comes just for effort, not only success.
Conversely, enforce consequences for disrespectful arguing and refusing to compromise. This could mean loss of privileges like screen time. Stick to the plan consistently.
When a child contradicts their own past statements, politely point out the discrepancy. “But yesterday you said the opposite. What made you change your mind?”
Raising this contradiction makes it clear when they are being intellectually dishonest just to avoid being wrong. It pressures them to explain their flip-flopping.
Teach That Changing Your Mind Has Value
Some kids refuse to back down because they believe sticking to one position shows strength. Teach that changing opinions with new evidence demonstrates intelligence and confidence.
Point to times when you or other adults adjusted a viewpoint based on learning. Frame open-mindedness as the ultimate sign of wisdom.
Avoid comparing the child’s behavior to peers or siblings. Saying “Why can’t you be more like…” breeds insecurity. The child will become increasingly stubborn in order to feel in control.
Instead, talk about strategies for self-improvement. Keep the focus on celebrating their positives while giving tools to learn and grow.
Dealing with a perpetually stubborn child tests patience. But implementing the right mix of discipline, empathy and wisdom can improve behavior over time. The key is addressing the root insecurities fueling their refusal to be wrong, while also setting clear boundaries around respectful discussion. With maturity and targeted guidance, children can learn to handle mistakes with grace.