Friday, July 6, 2012

Parenting Tips: What Arguing with Your Teenagers Really Means

By: Deborah Pace Rowley

By now, you know that I love the book Nurture Shock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merriman. One of my favorite chapters is called The Science of Teenage Rebellion. I was fascinated to learn that when our teenagers argue with us, these arguments are actually positive. The chapter describes an extensive study that found that honesty was correlated with conflict. If teens are not arguing, they are pretending to go along with their parents’ wishes, but are actually going behind their parents’ backs and doing what they want to do anyway. “In families where there was less deception, there was a much higher ratio of arguing/complaining. Arguing was good---arguing was honesty.” (Page 148)  

Parents didn’t recognize this fact. Mothers were surveyed and most felt that arguments were destructive to their relationships with their daughters. 77% of daughters, on the other hand, felt that fighting strengthened their relationship with their mother. “They saw fighting as a way to see their parents in a new way, as a result of hearing their mother’s point of view articulated.” (Page 149)
The key is how the arguments are resolved. Teenagers need to feel heard and when reasonable, parents need to budge a little. Kids need to feel like they can win a few arguments and get small concessions as a result of others. “The type of parents who were lied to the least had rules and enforced them consistently but they had found a way to be flexible that allowed the rule-setting process to still be respected.” (Page 151) The book gives this example as a guide: Imagine a child’s normal curfew is eleven p.m. and the child explains to their parents that something special is happening on a certain night. The parents listen to the argument and accept that it is a reasonable request. Ultimately, the parents say, “Okay, for that night only, you can come home at one a.m.” This encourages kids not to lie and to respect the rules. 
After reading this chapter, I know that I have looked at conflict with my teenagers completely differently. I hope this post has given you something to think about as well. 

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