Surprisingly, disagreements – if they are brought about as a result of healthy dialogue – can be a good way to provide teens the tools they need to prevent peer pressure from getting them to use drugs.
Ask the parents of teenagers what bothers them most about their teen and the answer is likely to be the constant debates and arguments. As painful as these disputes may be, they are a sign of healthy development. Teens become more independent and separate from their parents by questioning their decisions and authority.
New research suggests that besides helping teens to become independent, healthy disagreements with their parents may bring additional benefits in terms of peer pressure. Parents who remain calm and reasonable during arguments are setting an example that will help their children resist peer pressure.
The research, which was reported in Child Development, is based on interviews with more than 150 teens and parents. Interview questions focused on substance abuse, family interactions and relationships with friends. Researchers found that parents who avoid yelling and allow their teenagers to participate in discussions on hot topics like money, grades and friends are teaching their teens how to express themselves and politely disagree.
Data from the study indicates that teens who have learned to argue calmly and persuasively are better equipped to say “no” when offered drugs or alcohol by their peers. In fact, they are 40% more likely to avoid substance abuse altogether. In addition, parents who yell and use threats and insults to win arguments are likely to have children who are passive and who lack confidence when it comes to standing up for their beliefs. These children are also more passive with their peers and are more likely to say “yes” when pressured to use drugs and alcohol.
The findings of this new study support earlier studies that have found that parents who respect their child’s input and opinions are more likely to raise children who are independent thinkers and resistant to peer pressure.
If you are the parent of a teenager, it’s important to remember to listen to your teen. Even if you don’t agree with what your teen is saying, you should acknowledge when he or she makes a good point. This will help your child learn how to persuade other people to see their point of view. As painful as arguing with your teen may be, if you set an example for effective disagreement you will be helping your teen avoid the problems with drugs and alcohol that are so common among this age group. Being able to remain calm and persuasive while arguing will also help your teen with personal and professional relationships throughout his or her lifetime.