Monday, 27 December 2010

Bad Habit Number Six - Contentiousness

Some people love to play devil’s advocate. I had a friend years ago who constantly challenged his work mates over what they did and how they reacted.

If they expressed an opinion he would challenge and mock what they said. Now it might feel great to be right and as the old saying goes ‘a man who is right is a majority of one’ but being contentious with other people is an unattractive habit. Barristers in court do it to challenge the statements of witnesses in a search for the truth. But when they get home to their loved ones they might be tempted to do the same and this can account for the high percentage of divorce cases amongst people in the legal profession.

John Humphries is a great interviewer on Radio 4 he really pressures politicians with his incisive questions about their policies and you can feel their discomfort often. I’m often amazed at their self control under the fire of his aggressive questioning of every one of their answers to his barrage of questions.

But I’m sure that Mr Humphries knows not to adopt this tactic with his family as it’s a sure fire way to end up living alone without any friends.

Do you constantly challenge your child over what they do? Do you pride yourself on knowing better and tripping them up over what they say? Do your children dread telling you anything about their day because you contend every little part of what they say, correcting their errors or challenging their opinions? Remember our children are immature and not fully grown. They are gradually developing their personality and learning to deal with their world.

Teenagers can say the most ridiculous things and express ideas that are not well thought out but if you contend every little thing they say you are not helping them to develop considered and well though out ideas.

Instead you are teaching them that you don’t care about them, that they are in a constant state of being wrong. And if they cannot be right in your presence they’ll stay out of your presence avoiding your company, spending hours in their bedroom or out with their friends, instead of becoming your friend.

Our children need our support and guidance not our constant disapproval. By constantly disapproving of what they do you make them wrong. At best this will harm their confidence and at worst it can seriously alienate them from you and others around them.


1.                Think before you speak – once again it’s a simple answer to the problem. It doesn’t mean listen to a load of old nonsense and appear to agree with it, it means that you can allow them to let off steam and say what they think but think before you react to what they say

2.                You don’t always have to say anything – listen, nod and maybe make a comment such as ‘I agree with some of what you say, but everybody is different and we need to make allowance for that’

Your job is to show your child how to be a leader not a follower and as their leader you have to think before you speak and consider the impact of what you say.

When your child realises that you don’t know all the answers but that you do take a sensible approach to answering them they will be more inclined to copy what you do.

If you challenge and contend everything they say they will also learn to do that too and that’s ok if you’re a lawyer but only in the right situation. In the home you have to learn to be considerate and respectful of their opinions and actions. Remember your behaviour should be a demonstration of how you want your child to behave.

Thanks for reading today and I look forward to speaking next time on the '7th Bad Habit of Highly Ineffective Parents'

Best wishes

Tony Higo
Chief Instructor
National Martial Arts College
0800 0920948

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