January 5, 2012

Teens who argue with their parents are learning how to stand up to their peers.

Thus, parents should value the fighting spirit of their teenagers:
"The teens who learned to be calm and confident and persuasive with their parents acted the same way when they were with their peers," [said psychologist Joseph P. Allen.] "They were able to confidently disagree, saying 'no' when offered alcohol or drugs. In fact, they were 40 percent more likely to say 'no' than kids who didn't argue with their parents.

For other kids, it was an entirely different story. "They would back down right away," says Allen, saying they felt it pointless to argue with their parents. This kind of passivity was taken directly into peer groups, where these teens were more likely to acquiesce when offered drugs or alcohol. "These were the teens we worried about," he says.

41 comments:

Paddy O said...

What about the adults? My experience with adults suggest that most don't have arguing skills much beyond teenagers, so I wonder if it's not just the arguing, but the kind of maturity a parent brings to such arguments.

A the arguing teenager of an adult who values logic, orderly development, calm approach, mixed with accepting of responsibilities, is going to be different than an arguing teenager of a family that yells, throws stuff, and attempts domination.

The Crack Emcee said...

Wait - teaching Occupiers "a lesson" is a good thing, but "teens who argue with their parents" are also good?

Althouse,...

Dave said...

There's a vast oversupply of rude, disrespectful teenagers. It's the rare young adult who can make their case calmly, respectfully and only when necessary who'll get the best opportunities. The "fighting spirit" in teenagers is something to be constrained not celebrated. I

toby said...

My parents taught us kids to stand up for ourselves respectfully. They also didn't try to lowball us w/ payment for extra jobs around the house and taught us to negotiate higher payment. They would agree to a higher wage if the work was excellent. This was passed on to our kids. With our daughter, we particularly wanted her to stand up to young men w/ bad intent. All very important stuff. Compliance is boring. We were taught to step up our game.

Scott M said...

There's arguing, and then there's willful disobedience. In my family, both in my growing up and with my own kids, it never starts with the parent saying "because I say so". That's where it should end, but if you have to start out each directive given to a child that way, you're fighting an uphill, possibly losing, battle.

I'm perfectly willing to explain the reasoning behind rules of the house or decisions made to my children. I'll even restate it once or twice to make sure they understand and try to smooth out any misunderstandings.

However...there are times when it comes down to "because I said so" when you either don't have the time or know (because you know your kid) that their level of understanding about a given situation is not yet able to grasp all the details that go into the why of it.

If you deal with your children fairly and lovingly, pulling out the "do it because I said so" card is a red-flag in their perception that labels the situation as important. It's much the same with yelling all the time. If you do, when something that comes along that actually warrants a raised voice, it will come across as static. If you reserve a raised for for truly important issues, the impact of the volume will be almost tangible.

None of this means they are going to listen to you though...lol

Ann Althouse said...

"Wait - teaching Occupiers "a lesson" is a good thing..."

I'll wait. Until you explain why you think I said that.

Fernandinande said...

The teens who learned to be calm and confident and persuasive with their parents acted the same way when they were with their peers,"

Teens who are calm and confident are calm and confident - how insightful! There's no "learning" shown here, just a personality characteristic.

toby said...

ScottM, We reserved the "because I said so" regarding safety. If a rule was imposed for safety reasons, and we needed to be righteous when invoking the safety clause, there was no negotiation.

We also had the "umpire rule". You could vent up to a point. Our kids could say, "that rule is horseshit". But, they could not say, "you're horsehit". There's an important distinction there. You have to give people a venue to air their displeasure. Otherwise you end up w/ a passive-aggressive household. Those families are the worst.

Kit said...

Teens who are calm and confident are calm and confident - how insightful! There's no "learning" shown here, just a personality characteristic.

True, but there is "learning" or development of personality, coming primarily from the parents and the interactions of the family. And, of course, the maturity of the parents is predicated on their upbringing...and so on, and so on. About the only interuption in family dysfunction would be to introduce a parent who doesn't have that history.

toby said...

Fern, That quality can be taught and nurtured.

toby said...

Kit, Amen.

Scott M said...

You could vent up to a point. Our kids could say, "that rule is horseshit". But, they could not say, "you're horsehit". There's an important distinction there.

Exactly.

It has to be said that despite what we're bombarded with in the media, be it news or recreational, the vast majority of parents I come into contact with are good, hard-working, conscientious people who do a good job of raising their kids. The real shitbags are the outliers.

dbp said...

My kids "argue" a lot but not well. Mostly they lead and end with, "That's not fair"! or "You're mean"!

Scott M said...

Mostly they lead and end with, "That's not fair"! or "You're mean"!

That's when you need to channel Dean Martin and put the smackdown on them.

GMay said...

There is a danger to allowing children a chance to question everything the parent directs. One of my children understands the whole concept of constructive questioning, the other learned that can be his default setting and he is more interested in 'making his case' than understanding the need for, or importance of, the task. He's basically showing defiance at the outset and not getting past that even after the explanation. He is now having to learn (the hard way) the concept of a more appropriate time and place to ask appropriate questions.

I saw this a lot during my military career as time wore on. The current generation seemed to require explanation and reasoning at the outset of a task, instead of waiting for a more appropriate time.

As a parent, SNCO, or employer I have neither the time nor inclination to enter into The Great Debate when I need you to clean your room, clean your rifle, or mop the dining area.

Balance is key.

Patrick said...

Whenever my kids tell me I'm not being fair, I tell them I'm sorry if I ever lead them to believe life would be fair.

Curious George said...

"Teens who argue with their parents are learning how to stand up to their peers.

Thus, parents should value the fighting spirit of their teenagers."

Well, maybe. That only went so far. Then I got to value the smack upside the head from my dad.

Scott M said...

Whenever my kids tell me I'm not being fair, I tell them I'm sorry if I ever lead them to believe life would be fair.

Excellent point. Dovetailing with that, my seven-year-old daughter gave me a nice warm fuzzy yesterday when she and her sister (four-years-old) were talking about something in the back of the car.

Whatever it was, the older sister said, "Well, that's better than nothing." I told her that her saying that made me very proud of her and that there are entire groups of people that go their whole lives without figuring out that simple fact of life.

toby said...

Gmay, Can we call you "The Great Santini"?

Scott M said...

Gmay, Can we call you "The Great Santini"?

Only if he ditches out over the water.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

In the study, when parents listened to their kids, their kids listened back. They didn't necessarily always agree, he says. But if one or the other made a good point, they would acknowledge that point. "They weren't just trying to fight each other at every step and wear each other down. They were really trying to persuade the other person."

Wow.

This sound like my childhood, except it was the entire family and relatives involved in debating sessions.

Pick a topic and discuss/debate. Inevitably, the group would divide into "sides".... and begin making points. It could go on for hours. When one side might be getting trounced, some of us might change sides to keep it going. It was an intellectual and NOT emotional game. (Well, sometimes it could get emotional...then we would immediately stop) We considered it great fun.

As teens we used many of those techniques and as long as the argument/discussion remained respectful on both sides we/kids sometimes got our way....or not and had to accept the superior arguments of our parents.

Never, (that I can remember) did they ever resort to...."Because I said so!!" types of reasoning.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

There is a danger to allowing children a chance to question everything the parent directs

True. Not everything is or was negotiable!! We (as kids) knew which areas were which and where we might be able to 'draw our battles' ...so to speak.

This concept is really important not just in the family but also in life in general and especially in your marriage.

Some things are what they are and not worth fighting over.

This is pretty much how I also raised my child and it seems to have worked out :-D

Lyle said...

Woo! I was a good teen. I argued with my parents all the time.

Hope there is some truth behind the study.

edutcher said...

Hmmmm,

The kids who argue sound a lot like the typical teen who knows better than his parents. I'm not sure these are the ones who will walk away from the peer group. After all, kids that age want to find out where they belong.

OTOH, the kid who can think it through and talk it out and state his reasoning calmly would seem to be better able to stand on his own.

Keep in mind, this is NPR's article, so they're all for the rebel without a clue who fights his parents.

rcommal said...

I don't care much whether my kid can calmly argue with his peers at 15 or 16 if they're pressuring him to do something he knows is wrong. A good, blunt, "No freakin' way, idiot" would work just as well and would impress me more.

; )

rcommal said...

On a more serious note (though I was half serious, anyway), it's interesting to me that the study focused on 13-year-olds who were then re-interviewed at 15 and 16. The reason is that it's been my experience that at least in today's world (though I recall the same phenomenon, to a lesser extent, decades ago), often the most dangerous time period for peer pressure starts more around middle school--so, ages 11 or 12--and really begins to slack off at 15 or 16.

So how useful is this study? Is it measuring the right things? Should we be encouraging more arguing at, say, 8 or 9 or 10 to help inoculate kids in middle school? Or is there something else going on?

Just my [temperamentally contrarian] 2 cents... .

Joe said...

My oldest learned how to do a mean negotiation. When my second child turned thirteen, he completely lost his mind. We didn't have arguments, instead, we'd say something calm and he'd start screaming. Every now and then he'd be reasonable, but the only thing we could discuss calmly is World of Warcraft and so we did.

He's twenty now and calming down.

Joe said...

One problem with the conclusions of this study; many, perhaps most, adults hate arguing, especially with teens. Far too many adults in a mentoring type position are dictators--teachers being among the worse. (In High School, one of my math teachers loved arguing with me, but it freaked out the other students. For example, on one test, for an inexplicable reason, he asked what can an answer be to a formula that resolved to 0/0. I wrote 0 and argued that the answer "can" be 0. He countered that I should have known what he was really asking, but eventually gave me half credit. It took me a while to learn that teachers hate having their grammar questioned.)

DADvocate said...

My kids should be able to stand up to anybody, verbally at least.

Scott M said...

My kids should be able to stand up to anybody, verbally at least.

The trick is teaching them how to do so respectfully and who deserves what amount of deference.

DADvocate said...

The trick is teaching them how to do so respectfully and who deserves what amount of deference.

It was a joke.

My kids are quite respectful, except, at times, to their mother. Who is a psycho anyway. (I have the MMPI results to help prove it.)

I taught them, that on certain things, they do what I say and we can discuss later. On other things, we can discuss before hand. My kids can be very smooth and persuasive, stand up for themselves when needed, and are respectful. The times they aren't respectful are generally when someone is giving the unwarranted crap and either a "friend" or their mother.

Freeman Hunt said...

I'm shocked, shocked (!) that teens who come from parents capable of handling conflict in a rational and restrained way tend to be teens who are capable of handling conflict in a rational and restrained way.

Correlation.

This was never actually tested:

The teens who learned to be calm and confident and persuasive with their parents acted the same way when they were with their peers,"

They didn't take parents who handled conflict a different way, teach them to handle it another way, and then have them model that to their teens. They just observed different teens and parents.

Of course the rational, calm, confident parents are more likely to have rational, calm, confident teens. Is that because the teens learned this from their parents or is it because the teens tend to be like their parents due to genetics, environment, or whatever else?

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Is that because the teens learned this from their parents or is it because the teens tend to be like their parents due to genetics, environment, or whatever else

That is a very good question.

I think a bit of both, but we don't know. Nature vs Nurture

Dan in Philly said...

I find that spychologists are generally full of it.

Mary Beth said...

Would you argue/discuss something the same way if you're being recorded/observed as you would in private?

Scott M said...

Would you argue/discuss something the same way if you're being recorded/observed as you would in private?

Hell no. If I thought people would actually read what I write here, I would use a sexy, bright chartreuse sans sarif. What's your point?

rcommal said...

Would you argue/discuss something the same way if you're being recorded/observed as you would in private?

Quite possibly. Sometimes it would be better, and sometimes it would be worse. So it's sort of a wash, since that's how it is already, LOL.

: )

Seeing Red said...

My kids "argue" a lot but not well. Mostly they lead and end with, "That's not fair"! or "You're mean"!

Bill Gates gave a graduation speech to a class of high schoolers about that very subject.

I used to have it on my fridge, now I just have an old Buckets comic, 1 panel


Life is unfair, why should I be any different?

JAL said...

"The teens who learned to be calm and confident and persuasive with their parents acted the same way when they were with their peers,"

Since I, the parent, was calm and confident and persuasive, my kids learned how to stand up to their peers.

How about that, sports fans?

rcommal said...

Since I, the parent, was calm and confident and persuasive, my kids learned how to stand up to their peers.

Yeah, that's exactly along the lines of what I've been thinking on account of the post itself and from the very start of this thread: It's about the parents [not about the kids]: Aren't we the grandest, greatest, most rational ever?

For myself, I wish; that said, wishin' ain't gettin'.

glad said...

It is very good news if our teens say no to drugs and alcohol but if they begin to argue with us parents it will not be a very good thing. One good way to keep them become respectful is by being an example to them but if it doesn’t work then you need more hard work making them respect you.