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New Research Says Kids Who "Talk Back" Become More Successful Adults

When kids talk back to adults, it's nearly universally reviled by the adults in the situation. But it turns out, talking back to grown ups is actually incredibly good for childhood development.

Kelly Flanagan, a clinical psychologist, thinks it's healthy for kids to push back against our demands.


"The inability to say "no", the inability to set personal boundaries, is one of the most common, insidious causes of human suffering," Flanagan argues. And it's true. Think: if you raise subservient children, how likely are you to create subservient adults?

Joseph Allen, a psychologist, agrees. "We tell parents to think of those arguments not as a nuisance but as a critical training ground."

As kids grow up, they try to gain control of their lives. When a child tries to negotiate bed time or how long they can play outside, it shouldn't be seen as a terrible quality that we need to yell and ground out of them, but instead as the development of a key skill needed for a successful adult life.

Instead of getting mad every time a kid talks back, try to understand HOW they talk back to you. It's important for kids to be able to stand up to authority and peer pressure, but it's also important for them to show respect and receive respect during the conversation. If they show no respect and you respond angrily, it teaches them a terrible lesson about how they proceed through life.

We've created a society in which children are seen as subservient. In some ways, having subservient kids is important. You know better how to keep them safe and healthy than they do. But we've become so dependent on knowing we can control our children that the moment they resist us, we feel insecure. We've become so comfortable with the idea that they're just "dumb" versions of adults that when they have interesting, profound thoughts, we ignore them. We regard them as people who have no opinions of their own. And it's a mistake.

Creating a life for a child where they are to follow orders and obey creates an adult who simply followers orders and obeys. They don't get to forge their own path and discover who they are. Instead, they end up leading mundane, uninteresting lives, or worse, enable brutal authorities to do bad things.

Children deserve to be treated as independent beings with their own thoughts, feelings, and ideas. We should regard them as people experiencing life in the same way that we do. We must supervise, but we can't force them down a certain path. Kids need to make decisions for themselves. It's not about you.

You're raising future adults, not minions.

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