Parent–Teen Disagreements Have Positive Results

conflict and disagreement can have positive outcomes for parents and teensIf you find yourself in frequent arguments with your teen—take heart. According to a newly published study, the right kind of disagreement may help a teen ‘just say no’ to peers when pressured to use drugs or be sexually active.

The longitudinal study at the University of Virginia looked at a diverse group of 150 teens at ages 13, 15, and 16, and asked questions of the teens, their peers, and parents about the teen’s substance use, interactions with mothers, social skills, and friendships. Researchers also observed the teens interacting with family members.

The results of the study indicate that teens who “openly expressed their viewpoints” and “held their own” in discussions with their mothers were also more likely to resist peer pressure to use drugs or alcohol or become sexually active.  The researchers particularly mentioned teens who could effectively use “reasoned arguments” to change parents’ minds about such topics as friends, grades, chores and house rules.

In contrast, teens who tried to use “pressure, whining, or insults” to get their way or those who gave in immediately without arguing, were more likely to give in to peer pressure as well.

Most people, unless conflict resolution professionals, tend to think that all conflict is bad. Parents can see their kids “talking back” as a sign of failure. On the contrary, when teens learn to stand up for a position and negotiate solutions, the skills learned carry over into better decision-making about sex, drugs, and alcohol, issues that deeply concern parents.

As a coach and mediator who helps teens and adults gain skills for communicating effectively, I often tell clients that conflict can have positive outcomes. It is challenging for parents and teens to figure out how to navigate difficult conversations successfully, but if they begin with love and a willingness to truly listen to each other, the result is far better than either yelling and dictating or just giving in.

By the way, the study said nothing about who “won” the argument. It was a respectful, effective style of communicating that made the difference for the teens.

Some information for this blog post came from the sources below:

Teens Who Express Own Views with Mom Resist Peer Pressures Best

 Familial Roots of Adolescents’ Autonomy with Peers: Family Interactions as Predictors of Susceptibility to Peer Influence–Joseph P. Allen University of Virginia (ppt.)

Lorraine Segal, communication coach, mediator, trainerThrough her business, Conflict Remedy, Lorraine Segal, provides communication coaching and mediation for parents, teens, couples and  people in organizations. Services available by telephone and Skype, as well as face to face in Santa Rosa, California. She also teaches in the conflict resolution program at Sonoma State University. Contact her to schedule a free initial 30 minute telephone consultation and see what services might be right for you. You can reach her at (707) 236-8079,  or through this blog.

© Lorraine Segal

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