Antidote to Peer Pressure: Argue With Mom

Posted on January 9, 2012 by

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let 'em argue with you & possibly save them from peer pressure?

I remember being underneath a Christmas tree staring into the boughs which were spinning. I’d had too much beer. I was at least sixteen. Maybe seventeen and I was at a party. There were no parents around. I made my way home. I walked through snow and found my house, my bed and sleep. The next day I felt like crap. I couldn’t believe how crappy I felt. First hangover.

Letting our children grow up and make mistakes and trust that they will come back around unscathed is one of the hardest tasks of parenting. I thought tantrums were hard. I thought welcoming a new sibling was hard. I thought divorce was hard.  And guess what? all of those passages were. They were supposed to be. That’s how we learn. But that’s a tangent.  And now, since letting my children grow up and make messes and be messy, I find this passage to be well, excruciating.

The job of parenting is to let go. The goal is to have your job become obsolete.  Or to be outsourced. Outsourced to a wider social network and supports. When I speak with my friends about this concept, there are tears and shrugs and talk of adjustment. There are empty seats at the table and weeks without contact from the young adult they have grown into independence. There is also the partner they have not focused on to the exclusion of all else since…well, they can’t remember. But that’s another story.

Said Independence is accompanied by arguing and compromising and exasperating conversations with children who were once rational. To this end, Hayley sent me an article from Time, “Arguing with Mom Helps Teens Fend off Peer Pressure” on allowing our children to win an argument (or two). The study suggests that letting our children win a few is important. That was good news for the pushover in me.

New research shows that adolescents who quickly backed down during an argument with their mother had a harder time resisting peer pressure to use drugs and alcohol than teens who were able to calmly , persuasively and persistently argue their point with Mom.

Good news. The article went on to discuss the inclination to demand compliance. I’ve never been very good at playing dictator, but that doesn’t mean I don’t see the appeal…

It may seem easier for parents just to demand compliance from their kids, but doing so can crate unintended consequences down the road, says Stephen Hayes, a professor of psychology at the University of Nevada, Reno, who was not involved in the study. “There’s a message inside ‘do what I say’ parenting: he says. “It’s do what other people say.”

Thank you Hayley. You couldn’t have sent me a better holiday present; science supporting the art of adolescent polemic. And proof  that indulging the reasoning of self-righteous teen serves a purpose. Phew.

(image: GoogleImages)