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Teaching Children How to Argue

I noticed while teaching students about persuasive writing how difficult they find it to form opinions of their own. It is almost as if children today do what they have learned to do without ever reflecting on the reasons why. This poses a significant problem when it comes to peer pressure. If you don’t have the tools to work out right from wrong, positive from negative, you can be very easily lead.

This unfortunate consequence was part of the findings of a recent study undertaken by the University of Virginia:

WHILE parents have been teaching their kids not to argue with adults for generations, new research shows it may have its benefits.

A study by the University of Virginia shows that young teenagers who are taught to argue effectively are more likely to resist peer pressure to use drugs or alcohol later in adolescence.

“It turns out that what goes on in the family is actually a training ground for teens in terms of how to negotiate with other people,” said Joseph Allen, psychology professor and lead author of the study, results of which were published in a recent edition of the journal Child Development.

Prof Allen said that parents are often “scared to death about peer pressure” but also frustrated by argumentative children.

“What we’re finding is there’s a surprising connection between the two,” he said.

Prof Allen said that teens “learn they can be taken seriously” through interactions with their parents.

“Sometimes, it can be counterintuitive to tell parents to let their teens argue with them,” said Joanna Chango, a clinical psychology graduate student who worked on the study.

In fact, learning effective argumentation skills can help teenagers learn to “assert themselves and establish a sense of autonomy”, she said.

I don’t agree with the assertion that we should encourage our children to argue with us. Instead, teachers and parents alike, should encourage students to question everything, to feel confident to form their own opinions and not to follow a crowd just for the sake of safety in numbers.
Click on the link to read my post on beating peer pressure.
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