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Parents Should Encourage Kids to Argue, Study

Parents Should Encourage Kids to Argue, Study

(epharmanews)- Contrary to the idea that most parents have, kids must be encouraged to argue with adults. Young teenagers who are encouraged to argue effectively are often successful at resisting peer pressure to use drugs or alcohol later in adolescence.

Joseph Allen, psychology professor and lead author of the study, said that parents are often "scared to death about peer pressure" but also frustrated by argumentative children. "What we're finding is there's a surprising connection between the two," he said.

"It turns out that what goes on in the family is actually a training ground for teens in terms of how to negotiate with other people,"

Professor Allen added that teens "learn they can be taken seriously" through interactions with their parents.

"Sometimes, it can be counterintuitive to tell parents to let their teens argue with them," said Joanna Chango, a clinical psychology graduate student who worked on the study.

In fact, learning effective argumentation skills can help teenagers learn to "assert themselves and establish a sense of autonomy", she said.

Researchers observed 150 13-year-olds engaging in arguments, and then polled the same participants three years later about their experiences with drugs and alcohol.

The results of this study, published recently in the journal Child Development, found that teenagers who learned how to argue effectively resisted peer pressure, especially for Alcohol and drug use. The teenagers were tape-recorded summarizing disagreements between themselves and their mothers. The recordings were then replayed for the mothers to hear.

"Usually, it's sort of an ongoing disagreement they have that they haven't been able to resolve," Ms. Chango said, adding that topics ranged from household rules to grades to monthly allowances.

Teenagers who were confident and reasonable when arguing their statements were more likely to have refused drugs or alcohol when polled by researchers three years later, she said.

"Basically, our main finding is that the more that these teens are able to openly express their own viewpoints and be assertive ... they are more likely to resist peer influence to use drugs and alcohol a few years later."

Ms. Chango recommended parents teach their children how to effectively convey their thoughts and emotions during conflicts, which in turn teaches children to stand up to negative influences outside of the home.

"We sort of see this as a transition of skills," she said. "Even if their viewpoints don't line up, the teen is going to be able to take those skills into other environments." She also said that it is important for parents to listen to their children's concerns during a conflict. Parents of teenagers should teach by example and model good discussion practices for their children, Allen said.

He said that parents should be firm and prove to teenagers that providing "good reasons presented in a moderate way" is more effective than whining or hostile behavior such as slamming doors.

"If they're able to learn how to be confident and persuasive with their parents, then they'll be able to hopefully do the same with their peers," Ms. Chango said.

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Prepared by: Abdullatief Janat

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