Bottom line: Effective arguing acted as something of an inoculation against negative peer pressure. Kids who felt confident to express themselves to their parents also felt confident being honest with their friends.
So, ironically the best thing parents can do is help their teenager argue more effectively. For this, Allen offers one word: listen.
In the study, when parents listened to their kids, their kids listened back. They didn't necessarily always agree, he says. But if one or the other made a good point, they would acknowledge that point. "They 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."
Acceptable argument might go something like this: 'How about if my curfew's a half hour later but I agree that I'll text you or I'll agree that I'll stay in certain places and you'll know where I'll be; or how about I prove to you I can handle it for three weeks before we make a final decision about it."
Again, parents won't necessarily agree. But "they'll get across the message that they take their kids point of view seriously and honestly consider what they have to say," Allen says.
Child psychologist Richard Weissbourd says the findings bolster earlier research that finds that "parents who really respect their kids' thinking and their kids' input are much more likely to have kids who end up being independent thinkers and who are able to resist peer groups."
Weissbourd points to one dramatic study that analyzed parental relationships of Dutch citizens who ended up protecting Jews during World War II. They were parents who encouraged independent thinking, even if it differed from their own.
So the next time your teenager huffs and puffs and starts to argue, you might just step back for a minute, take a breath yourself, and try to listen. It may be one of the best lessons you teach your child.
In the study, when parents listened to their kids, their kids listened back.
Using data on nearly 600 kids from an ongoing study of middle school and high school students in New Hampshire, researchers from the University of New Hampshire were able to link "my way or the highway" parenting with more delinquency in kids -- measured in behaviors like shop-lifting, substance abuse and attacking someone else with the intention of hurting or killing.
Firm but loving parenting, on the other hand, led to fewer transgressions. Permissive parenting, surprisingly, didn't seem to make much of a difference either way.
To explain the link between parenting style and behavior in kids, the researchers suggest that what matters most is how "legitimate" kids think their parents' authority is. This sense of legitimacy comes when kids trust that their parents are making the best decisions for them and believe that they need to do what their parents say even if they don’t always like how their parents are treating them.
When kids respect the authority of their parents, the researchers reported in the Journal of Adolescence, their behavior is better. Previous research has also linked firm but caring parenting with kids who have more self-control and self-reliance.
"When children consider their parents to be legitimate authority figures, they trust the parent and feel they have an obligation to do what their parents tell them to do," said lead researcher Rick Trinkner.
"This is an important attribute for any authority figure to possess, as the parent does not have to rely on a system of rewards and punishments to control behavior, and the child is more likely to follow the rules when the parent is not physically present."