If you're a parent, you are routinely embroiled in disputes with your child. Those disputes, especially in teens, are the symbol of appropriate developmental separation from parents. It's a vital part of growing up, but it can be extraordinarily wearing on parents. There is an art form to training up your child through argument with an end goal of greater godliness.
Mini Life Lessons
All parents and children argue, but it's the quality of the arguments that makes all the difference.
"We tell parents to think of those arguments not as nuisance but as a critical training ground. Arguments are actually mini life lessons in how to disagree — a necessary skill later on in life with spouses, friends and colleagues on the job. Kids should be rewarded when arguing calmly and persuasively and not when they indulge in yelling, whining, threats or insults." -- Joseph P. Allen, Psychologist
Scripture affirms the value of using our words and our soft persuasion to appropriately challenge a decision.
Proverbs 25:15 says,
“By forbearance a ruler may be persuaded, and a soft tongue breaks the bone."
Wisdom, Solomon says, makes words palatable.
Arguing Can Be Good?
So cultivating argument in my home could be GOOD? Could learning how to have a healthy, logical, and non-emotive argument at home keep your kids from falling prey to the dangers of this fallen world?
"The children who learned to be calm and confident and persuasive with their parents acted the same way when they were with their peers. 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.” -- Joseph P. Allen, Psychologist
So NOT learning to have healthy arguments could actually be BAD!?! Yes. If I as a parent set up a “My Way or The Highway” environment, it could lead to a higher instance of destructive behaviors.
"Children who felt it was pointless to argue with their parents and would back down right away. This kind of passivity was taken directly into peer groups, where these teens were more likely to acquiesce when offered drugs or alcohol. These were the teens we are worried about." -- Joseph P. Allen, Psychologist
Studies have shown that effective arguing acted as something of an inoculation against negatively bowing to the pressures of their peers. Studies concluded that kids who felt confident to express themselves to their parents also felt confident being honest with their friends about their beliefs and values. So, ironically the best thing parents can do is train their children argue more effectively, at home, with their parents! Studies found great benefits in families where communication and, yes, even argument was acceptable. It is in HOW one argues their case that makes all the difference.
The Art of Appropriate Argument
I want my kids to have a strong backbone. I want my kids to hold their head high and be confident about their values and convictions. I want them stand for what they believe in a world oppositional to their spiritual views. This can be done, in part, by educating them HOW to lobby their cause appropriately when they are 6 and 7 years old about issues important to them.
I want my kids to appropriately raise a different point of view about the fairness of the chore system at place in our home. I am wise to listen. I am a fool to shut them down. Their future depends on it, I think.
Research shows that the art of appropriate argument is a quite a valuable trait. Allen concludes,
"We found in this study that successful parents and kids weren't just trying to fight each other at every step and wear each other down. They were really trying to persuade the other person."
Teaching our kids to argue persuasively may be one of the best lessons your child could learn.
The next several blogs will focus on the practicalities of HOW we as parents can encourage the right kind of argument for a long-term victory in our kids.
If you are eager to learn more about the concept of teaching your kids to argue, with all the content in one place, sign up here for my free ebook “I Want My Kids to Argue.”
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