Why You Should Teach Your Child to Argue

This is one determined-looking kid. (Photo: Maria Symchych/Shutterstock)

It seems to go against everything we believe as parents. As parents, we want our kids to stop arguing and just do as they're told. Teaching kids to argue with us will just make life harder, right? But experts now say that teaching kids to argue intelligently may give them the tools they need to stand up to peer pressure as they get older.

Researchers from the University of Virginia recently studied arguments between 157 13-year-old kids and their parents. Most arguments focused on grades, chores, money and friends. The study, published in the journal Child Development, indicated that it was how the parents reacted to these arguments that determined whether or not their kids became good arguers. For instance, some parents rolled their eyes. Others yelled back or simply stifled the discussion. But it was the parents who listened to their teen's points and encouraged a calm discussion that stood out the most.

When the researchers interviewed all of the teens again at ages 15 and 16, they found that what the kids learned in handling arguments with their parents was exactly what they took with them into their social interactions with peers.

The teens who learned how to calmly discuss disagreements with their parents were more apt to confidently disagree with friends, particularly about alcohol or drugs. In fact, the study found that these kids were 40 percent more likely to say "no" than kids who didn't argue with their parents.

Kids who were not taught how to argue did not fare as well. They tended to be less confident in their interactions with peers and were thus most likely to passively acquiesce when offered drugs or alcohol.

So how can you effectively teach your kids to argue? Jay Heinrichs offers up some solid — and witty — tips in his post, How To Teach A Child To Argue, such as focusing on the future (don't dredge up past arguments,) calling "fouls" on anything such as whining or yelling, which impede a quality argument, and most importantly, letting kids win sometimes.

Bottom line: If you want kids to eventually stand up to their peers in the future, you need to teach them how to calmly, confidently and effectively stand up to you now.