Don’t Talk Back

Brad M. Griffin | Jan 10, 2012

In a report with a stellar title, Why A Teen Who Talks Back May Have A Bright Future, NPRs Patti Neighmond recently shared good news for frustrated parents everywhere: all that conflict might lead somewhere positive after all.

According to new research from the University of Virginia, parent-teen arguments should be seen as a critical training ground for how to build skills in handling disagreements throughout life. The study followed teenagers and their parents from age 13-16, looking at the way they handled conflict about common issues (grades, chores, money, friends). The researchers noted:

“The teens who learned to be calm and confident and persuasive with their parents acted the same way when they were with their peers,” [lead researcher Joseph P. Allen] says. They were able to confidently disagree, saying ‘no’ when offered alcohol or drugs. In fact, they were 40 percent more likely to say ‘no’ than kids who didn’t argue with their parents Kids who felt confident to express themselves to their parents also felt confident being honest with their friends.

This doesnt mean parents should put on boxing gloves and duke out every argument with their kids, but it also doesnt mean parents should try to squelch conflict (either through overpowering or conceding). Instead, the researchers recommend that parents learn to listen well. In fact, they found that when parents listened well, their kids (heres the big payoff) listened back.

Parents who listen foster teenagers who listen. Sounds like a revolutionary win-win, doesnt it?

Brad M. Griffin

Brad M. Griffin is the Senior Director of Content for the Fuller Youth Institute, where he develops research-based training for youth workers and parents. A speaker, writer, and volunteer youth pastor, Brad is the coauthor of over a dozen books, including 3 Big Questions That Change Every Teenager, Faith in an Anxious World, Growing Young, several Sticky Faith books, Every Parent’s Guide to Navigating Our Digital World, and Can I Ask That? Brad and his family live in Southern California, where he serves as Pastor of Youth and Family Ministries at Mountainside Communion.


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