I thought to use this as a learning opportunity. The first step was to get him committed to being engaged in the conversations. I resorted to a "carrot" of sorts.
"Son, if you talk to Mom and I for 30 min, I'll let you stay up an extra hour tonight...but we have to have a meaning full conversation about this."
It was almost comical. He immediately stopped huffing, sat for a minute then turned and quite calmly said "OK". The next thirty minutes were eye opening for all of us. I figured I must be on the right track...
I proceeded to explain a key concept to almost any conversation to him.
"You know we both have different ideas about this problem. You have to start a conversation by assuming that neither one of us is right or wrong. "
He replies: "But you guys are adults and I have to listen to what you say"
"Yes, We are your parents and when we tell you to do something you have to do it. However, when we sit down to talk, we want to understand your point of view and we want you to understand ours."
I explained to him that during a conversation it was important to sit up straight and say what he really felt. He did not need to shout, cry or plead as we were already intently listening to what he said.
One of the recurring themes was interruptions. And as our children are supposed to do, I learned something from my 10 year old that evening. I tended to interrupt the other party when I was engaged in "verbally sparing".
My son found this especially disturbing as when I interrupted him he felt that he had to defer to me and let me speak, thus shutting his thoughts out or causing him to forget his train of thought.
At certain points he in turn would interrupt my speech as he would attack my arguments. Unfortunately he would do this before I laid out the entire picture so he would miss points in my argument. This lead to a cycle where he would not understand something but I could not finish the thought to explain it to him. Looking back, I wonder how many of my own conversations would have been shorter if I had not "jumped" into the rebuttal.
I helped him understand that he had to let the other person finish their thoughts. If he wanted to address a particular part of what was said, he simply had to repeat that part and then state why he thought it was wrong.
All in all, I found it very interesting and I think we learned a lot about ourselves and each other.
If you have a young child in your house I suggest that you also sit down and teach them the valuable lesson of holding up their end of a conversation. You may be surprised at what you learn.
In case your wondering the topic of discussion was Homework. *grin*