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Do you have a student who is always arguing and/or analyzing everything you {and their peers} say or do?  Do they debate even the smallest of requests that you make?  Do they become argumentative with peers, even those who are trying to be friendly to them, cause them to have few or challenging friendships? 

Students who constantly argue can be very frustrating!

Figuring Out The “Why”


The first thing I always do, is try to pinpoint the reason for the behavior.

Why is the student engaging in  this behavior?  What is he/she trying to say?  Beyond the words, what message is he sending?

Students who engage in this type of behavior are often seeking control. They want to control the situation, the conversation, the game, etc.  This is usually due to challenges with; Rigid Thinking, Poor Understanding of Empathy, Poor Understanding of Point of View, Perspective Taking, and Fact vs. Opinion. 

Some students also have low self esteem, feel they are disrespected or that they never get a chance to talk {whether real or perceived} and share all of their amazing knowledge {whether it really is or is just a special interest of theirs}.

Unfortunately, there is not a quick fix for this, but rather, a lot of work needs to be done to help a student for whom these are challenges.  That said, there are some things you can do, to help or at least de-escalate the situation.


Here are a few  things to try “In the moment”


A Shut Down Phrase

When the student argues or over analyzes, the first time, offer a rote phrase to show you heard him but are not going to “get into it.”  I call it a “shut down phrase.”  It may be something like:

  • “I hear that you…”
  • “we can talk about that later.” 
  • “so noted.” 
  • “ah-ha.”
  • “hum…”

Keep it very short. Use very few words and an even tone.  Do not let the student see/hear you get frustrated with them {easier said than done}.

Then, just move on and continue with what you were saying.  Beyond that, ignorefurther attempts to argue or analyze.  If you go down the “rabbit hole” with him/her, you are reinforcing the behavior.

Ignore It

Ignoring is super tough to do but very important with a student who continuously blurts/argues.  You will never win an argument with a child who does this.  They always find a way to win, generally because they have fewer social/emotional boundaries than you do.

What you are trying to do, is cut the behavior short, while not reinforcing it without meaning to, and then at another time….work on the specific skills the student needs to improve on, in order to stop engaging in this behavior.

Provide An Alternative

Provide an alternative way for the child to expresses themselves.  For example, try giving the student a note pad to write down his questions or topic changes, to be discussed at a later, agreed upon time.

This, however, will only help you out in the short term.   It may allow you to finish your lesson, or your sentence!  But it will not actually teach the student the skills needed to stop arguing, or to make his/her point in an acceptable way.  To do this, you will most likely need to teach the student explicit social skills.



Social Skills I recommend teaching the student in a small group setting


In order for the student who always argues, to stop; he or she will need to learn the social skills they are lacking, to do so.  They may need to learn some or all of these: 

  • How to “argue” {or explain your perspective} his point in a respectful way. To use words like, “I think” vs. “That’s wrong….”
  • A Debate vs. An Argument
  • Respect: words used, body language used, no blurting…how to wait for a turn to talk, stay on topic, let small things go…etc.
  • Opinion vs. Fact: it’s okay to have different opinions
  • Perspective Taking: People have different points of view and it’s okay.
  • Point of View
  • Empathy
  • Thought Bubble Thoughts {filter thoughts so that highly negative words don’t come out but are softened to be more socially acceptable}
  • Social Fake {saying something polite vs. true}
  • Voice Volume and Tone
  • Negotiating {fairly and respectfully}


Sound like a lot?  That’s because it is! 


Need an activity to help you teach your students how to negotiate?  I have created a fun little activity that may be just what you need.  Students get to role play how to negotiate.  This important skill takes lots and lots of practice!




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These resources include my monthly Tips & Tricks newsletter {for a particular social skill each month}, as well as a variety of posters, visuals, games and activities designed to support the identified social skill.



Working with students who argue a lot can be emotionally draining.  It is important to have a plan and support for working with these students, so that you can help them and keep yourself feeling positive as well.

Even if your student is not on an IEP or other support plan, there are professionals in your building that can help you.  Reach out to them for support as needed.  Some good folks to consult with are:

  • School psychologist
  • Social Worker
  • Adjustment Counselor
  • Special Educator
  • Inclusion Specialist


Good luck and don’t give up!  The most difficult students are often the one’s who need us the most.


Thanks So Much and Happy Teaching!

Cindy ~Socially Skilled Kids


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