Dear Annie: My 19-year-old daughter has always argued with me about everything. I could say the sky is blue, and she would say, “No, it’s azure.” When she was a child, I tried to ignore her debates and told her to just do as I say. But now that she’s a young adult, it no longer works. I don’t know how to put an end to these constant ridiculous arguments.
I just got off the phone with her. I asked if she could stop and get some cookie dough at the grocery store on her way home. She could not see any reason why I would want any, and I spent way too much time and effort convincing her to please get some so I could make some cookies. The store wasn’t out of her way, and it wasn’t expensive. She simply saw no reason for me to bake cookies.
She rarely does this with her father, although he has occasionally gotten the same treatment. I do not understand why she feels the need to make our lives so much more unpleasant than necessary. She will be finishing her education at a university halfway across the country next year, and it would be nice to put an end to this nonsense before she leaves. Please help. – Just for Argument’s Sake
Dear Just: You and your daughter have created a confrontational pattern that neither of you seems able to break. Here’s how: Stop arguing with her. When she says the sky is “azure,” tell her, “OK.” If she says you don’t need to bake cookies, reply thoughtfully, “You could be right.” These are not major issues, and it won’t matter if you let her win. Arguing is how your daughter gets your undivided attention. When she sees that she cannot provoke you, she may look for different ways to communicate. Help her out.