Want your teen to rock life? Don't be afraid to let her talk back

January 5 |
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Photo by JRPhoto12, used under Creative Commons license.

Yesterday NPR published a new piece called Why A Teen Who Talks Back May Have A Bright Future.

Researchers from the University of Virginia recently published their findings in the journal Child Development. Psychologist Joseph P. Allen headed the study.

Allen says almost all parents and teenagers argue. But it's the quality of the arguments that makes all the difference.

"We tell parents to think of those arguments not as nuisance but as a critical training ground," he says. Such arguments, he says, are actually mini life lessons in how to disagree — a necessary skill later on in life with partners, friends and colleagues on the job.

Teens should be rewarded when arguing calmly and persuasively and not when they indulge in yelling, whining, threats or insults, he says.

In the study, the group videotaped 157 13-year-olds who were talking about the biggest arguments they've had with their parents. The disputes were usually over money, grades, chores, and friends. Then the parent and the child both watched the video. The researches said the reactions of parents were all over the charts — "Some of them laughed uncomfortably; some rolled their eyes; and a number of them dove right in and said, 'OK, let's talk about this,' [Allen] says."

According to Allen, the parents who tried to talk out the issues were the ones who were teaching their kids how to deal with arguments. The researchers found that when the teens were dealing with pressure to try drugs or alcohol, they responded to their peers in the same way they did to their parents — if at home their parents were mellow and tried to talk the issue out, the teens had a much easier time resisting peer pressure with friends.

Basically: if your kid feels confident that he or she can honestly discuss an issue with you, they'll also feel confident being honest with their friends.

What do you guys think? How did you learn to deal with disagreements growing up — and how is that impacting what you're teaching your kid?