Raychelle Cassada Lohmann Ph.D., LPCS

Teen Angst

Arguing with Mom May Help Teens Resist Peer Pressure

The value of a healthy dispute

Posted Jan 08, 2012

According to a new study from the University of Virginia, teens who back down quickly during an argument with their mother had more difficulty resisting peer pressure to use drugs and alcohol than teens who were able to calmly, persuasively, and persistently argue their point with Mom.  But wait a minute, this doesn't mean that you let your teen win all the arguments.  What it does mean is that parents are instrumental in teaching their teens to be confident, secure and able to stand their ground. 

The study, which was published in the journal Child Development, included an ethnically and socioeconomically diverse group of 157 adolescents.  Researchers followed 13-year-olds and their moms for three years.

When the kids were 13, researchers observed the teen in two conversations with their mother.  During the first conversation, the mother and teen discussed a topic that they had previously argued about (such as grades or rules). The researchers noted how often the teen backed down and gave in easily.  

In the second conversation, the teen asked their mother for advice on something that they needed help with.  The objective of the second conversation was to assess whether the moms illustrated warmth, positivity, and support.  When the teens turned 15, they filled out drug and alcohol use questionnaires.  A year later, they returned and filled out the questionnaires again.

So, how do you encourage your teen to argue the right way?  Here are some tips that might help you... 

1. Stay calm and allow your teen to make their point.

2.  Be an example.  Model to your teen how to argue, not fight.  Your teen will follow your lead without even knowing it.  So remember, you still have the upper hand.

3. Respond, don't react.  Talk to them and don't yell or shout.  Do you listen well when someone's yelling at you?  Your teen probably won't either.

4. Listen, Listen, Listen.  As a parent, I know how hard this can be sometimes, but just listen.  Whether you agree with your teen's stance or not, give them the floor to express themselves; they deserve that.

5. Keep reminding yourself that during every argument your teen is learning.  Make sure they're getting the message you want them to.  

6.  Know when to call it quits.  If you find that you're getting too irritated with your teen to effectively argue, then stop.  Pay attention to your body signals, heartbeat, breathing rate, muscle tension, etc.  It's okay to continue the discussion later.  

7. Don't be a control freak; you don't have to win all the time. 

8.  End the argument the right way.  For instance, if you've modeled listening, calmness and acceptance during the argument, but there's no way you're giving in to what they want; then let them know the reason, even though they might not agree.  On the other hand, if your teen has made their point and you agree then give them credit. 

So, the next time you get into an argument with your teen, remember the tips above and give them a shot.  You may be doing your teen a whole lot of good down the road.  Here's to healthy arguing.

While this particular study focused on mothers because they spent the most time with the child the results would probably hold true to arguments between fathers and teens as well.  It isn't who the argument is with;it is how it's handled that's important.

If you want to read more about how to argue effectively with your teen check out Fair Fight.