Stubborn, determined, or stupid?

When kids get stubborn, parents can  get stupid. The cure? Know what matters, know what fights to win, know when you are in a Gotcha War and how to win.

Cartoon of a boy and dog and the need to bully.

What is a Gotcha War?  A battle designed by the one who starts it to feel better by making the person they are attacking act crazy.  

Waging a Gotcha War is more sophisticated than lying on the floor and screaming but nevertheless, an effort to bully, gain control, and feel better.  Basically Gotcha Wars battles are Win/Lose. However, better for parents to be the winners.   

Parenting advice about ending a Gotcha War

Anyone can start a Gotcha War, ending it is harder. The main strategy for ending such wars involves refusing to fight.  Not easy, because you fight such a war when your feelings have been hooked and you get emotional.  So you have to detach from the emotions aroused when a Gotcha Warrior attacks.

Tip one: Start self soothing as soon as you realize an invitation to fight comes your way.  Soft Face and Strong Body are  useful self-soothing exercise to use during a Gotcha War.  Here is a poster coach detailing both.

#emotionalintelligence poster coach teaching soft face/strong body. #parent advice

Tip two: When attacked, respond minimally.  This means the first thing? Shut your mouth and limit your responses to the Look.

The Look comes in various sizes and shapes, eyes wide, eye brows raised, eyes staring at the person, mouth soft and with the slightest hint of a smile.  The purpose being  to  conveys bemused awareness of the other’s intent to foment a Gotcha War.  The Look serves as the non verbal equivalent of saying as nicely as possible:

  •  “Come on.”
  • “Are you serious?”
  • “I don’t believe this.”

Tip three: When you must respond keep it short and as sweet as possible.

  • “Yes.”
  • “No.”
  • “I’m listening.”
  • “I see.”

Tip four:  Always agree when the other person is right, however, do so non-verbally by nodding.

Tip five:  Try this variation of active listening.  “You want me to ___________ (fill in the blank with what the other person wants) but I’can’t.”

If you could do what is asked but do not want to, end your statement with “but, I won’t.”

Tip six:  If you feel yourself losing control, call a time out. If necessary, say you have to visit the bathroom.

Tip seven: When the war is over, do not glory in winning if that is the case.

Tip eight: If the war was over a punishment, the punishment stays in place. 

Tip nine: Make the  next contact unrelated to Gotcha War pleasant. For a teenager, that might  mean making his or her favorite snack.

Tip ten:  If a Gotcha War involves physical assault, more is needed. The best place to start with a teen is with a mental health evaluation.  If suicide is being threatened, acted upon – locking self in bathroom call 911; if a fight has started have someone else call 911 while you try to stay safe.  These things rarely happen, but being prepared for a worse case scenario is always wise.


Practicing a Daily Emotional Fitness Program is easier than the easiest physical fitness program.  Check out this page on my blog for some easy EFTI exercises and how to do them. That page will teach to the  The One Minute Meditation   which can be like taking  a mini vacation.

Thank you for all you do and please take a moment to like, comment or share this post.



This post inspired by a Word Press Daily Prompt: Never Surrender.



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