Teens Who Learn Healthy Debate Skills More Likely to Resist Peer Pressure

If you’ve ever been in an argument with a teen, it might have felt like anything but productive. However, researchers found that if parents turn the argument from heated to healthy they are providing their kids with critical training they need for handling peer pressure, engaging in respectful confrontation, and offering solutions in reassuring ways, according to the NPR story “Why a Teen Who Talks Back May Have a Bright Future.”

What does effective arguing look like? The kind of arguing that should be rewarded is calm and persuasive, opposed to arguments with yelling, whining, threats, or insults, says the head of the study Joseph P. Allen. Parents in the study reacted in a variety of ways. The ones that modeled the healthiest reactions were the ones who initiated a discussion with their teen when confronted with a problem. When parents or teens are passive instead of active, problems fester under the surface and often grow greater with time increasing anxiety and stress for all concerned.

The study also found that students who had calm and persuasive disagreements with their parents were prepared to act the same way when confronted with problems from their peers, like turning down drugs and alcohol, compared to those who didn’t have constructive arguments with their parents. Teens who practiced constructive arguing with their parents were found to be 40 percent more likely to turn down alcohol and drugs than those who didn’t argue with their parents.

Allen says the best way for parents to practice effective arguing is to listen. Whether or not the student or parent agrees with the other one’s argument, when either one of the arguers makes a good point it should be acknowledged, and the best way to show this is by listening.

Practicing and promoting healthy, respectful debate is a lifelong skill that will serve students in school, college, career and life.  Parents who engage in this important, though sometimes hard to initiate, practice will likely produce young adults who are self-assured, able to advocate for what they need, and debate amicably and respectfully with those around them.  Where can you as a courageous parent provide an academic coaching opportunity in the car or in your home to demonstrate healthy debate?



“Why A Teen Who Talks Back May Have A Bright Future,” by Patti Neighmond. 3 January 2012. NPR. Accessed on 5 January 2012. http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2012/01/03/144495483/why-a-teen-who-talks-back-may-have-a-bright-future?ps=cprs

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