Does Your Child Talk Back? Experts say there could be a silver lining

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Parenting comes with a unique set of challenges — and back-talking can often be one of them. But as it turns out, there could be a silver lining for parents blessed with “spirited” children.

While all of that sass can definitely be frustrating, kids who express their differences in opinion with parents are actually more likely to go on to become successful adults.

This is according to a study from the University of Virginia, which was published in the journal Child DevelopmentFor this research, a total of 157 13-year-olds described their largest disagreement they had with their parents, which usually involved things like chores, friends money or grades. These accounts were video taped and then played back for parents and teens.

While parental reactions varied, it was the moms and dads who wanted to talk about the disagreements who set their kids up for success.

“We tell parents to think of those arguments not as nuisance but as a critical training ground,” said lead psychologist Joseph P. Allen, as reported by NPR. “We found that what a teen learned in handling these kinds of disagreements with their parents was exactly what they took into their peer world.”

When the same group of teenagers was interviewed again at ages 15 and 16, it was the teens who learned to be calm, confident and persuasive with their parents who acted the same way with their peers. They could confidently disagree when under peer pressure to try alcohol or drugs — 40 percent more likely to refuse them, in fact, than the teens who didn’t argue with their parents.

In a nutshell, kids who were able to articulate with parents about their difference of opinion — instead of passively going along with them — were learning how to respectfully disagree. This is a valuable skill in adulthood for dealing with colleagues and superiors at work, as well as friends and partners.

So how can parents teach kids the delicate art of “respectfully disagreeing” with someone? Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Model the behavior you wish to see: Because kids learn by watching the adults in their lives, make it a priority to use a calm or neutral tone when disagreeing with your child. Focus on feelings, facts and observations and skip the yelling, name-calling and punishment.
  • Give your child permission to disagree: Be sure to let your child know that it’s OK to disagree with friends, brothers or sisters, teachers and parents. Make sure they know the difference between respectful and disrespectful ways to do so and the possible consequences of each.
  • Give them words to lead with: Teach her how to speak her mind in a respectful way by arming her with phrases like: “Here’s what I think…” or “Can I tell you how I feel?”
  • Listen: If your child is using a respectful tone, offer your attention. Hear them out and then paraphrase it back to them. Try not to interrupt before they’re finished.

For even more tips on teaching your child to respectfully disagree (and hopefully setting them up for future success!) read this article from

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