Always the clever one, science has finally determined that the ancient art of arguing - that cornerstone of both democracy and the first two seasons of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills - is actually good for society.

Family scenes like this can actually be beneficial overall. Pic: Thinkstock

Researchers at the University of Virginia have found, through a study of some 150 13-year-olds, that teenagers who regularly argue with their parents are more likely to resist peer pressure, as well as drugs and alcohol.

They are also 97 per cent more likely to be sent to their room for being obnoxious little brats who may have raised an interesting and valid point about table manners being a social construct, but should still set the table because their father told them to (note to any future children of mine reading this: Go to your room).

What the study fails to mention, however, is that a small percentage of these sassy teens will go on to spend the rest of their lives ruining perfectly pleasant conversations by shouting their viewpoint until others awkwardly withdraw from the exchange. While most of us are able to disagree politely with the views of friends and strangers, there is a small minority who are completely incapable of doing so without turning their face into the most punchable object in the room. They confuse belligerence with assertiveness, viewing every discussion as a heated skirmish to be won through excessive volume and a keen refusal to listen.

Far too many of us, it seems, have forgotten how to argue. Online comment sections, Twitter trends and Facebook threads are littered with the condescending howls of people who view the opinions of others as little more than props and novelties. We see our various online profiles not as a way to communicate with others and share ideas, but as shrines dedicated to our sacred points of view. More often than not, the heated battles that rage across Twitter are not true arguments - they are simply illusions of debate created by combatants armed with megaphones and earplugs.

Argument is important. The absence of robust argument can lead to dictatorships, financial crises, entire collections of Tim Burton movies starring Johnny Depp in pale make-up and Matthew Newton’s inner monologue. Every parent should encourage their child to argue fearlessly and intelligently. A person should always learn to question before they learn to agree.

But be sure to provide handy hints that will allow your spawn to avoid transforming into the unmoving, wikipedia-citing, logic-devouring hate-monster that has become so common across the digital world.

Teach them that one can be assertive and civil at the same time - that manners do not detract from the ferocity and fervour of one’s delivery. Tell them that typing in all-caps is not a sign of independence and calculated aggression, but an indication that you are puzzled by the simple configuration of a common keyboard.

Teach them, also, that you do not “win” an argument within a relationship - you merely parry and catch your breath. To win an argument with a loved-one is to end it before either side noticeably loses (and is forced to allow the other to rent The Vow next time they’re at the DVD place).

Sometimes, you should tell them, the best result is to walk away with a changed mind - because that can only ever follow a proper argument.

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    • acotrel says:

      06:37am | 21/06/12

      I enjoy arguing on this forum, it exercises my brain.  And I especially like it when I see really challenging responses to my arguments, they clear my thoughts and help shape my world view and mindset . I still haven’t come to love Tony Abbott.

    • Kika says:

      08:55am | 21/06/12

      Me neither!

    • ZSRenn says:

      09:59am | 21/06/12

      Bullshit! (It was funnier when I used caps but the system obviously doesn’t allow that.)

    • John says:

      11:08am | 21/06/12

      The reality is 95% have a cemented view before they express it. Most tend to twist logic, reason and reality in other to satisfy the ego. To self deceive their own minds that they are speaking the truth.

      EG one might get a few variables to support the his or her theory, the other would get variables to support his or her theory. The majority of people don’t want to lose arguments, they want to win them, and they always deny losing them. When reason and logic is no longer on their side to resort to character assassinations in order undermining the person they are arguing against.

      The majority of the west is basically ignorant, intellectuality is a rare occurrence. Losing an argument should be honorable, but to constantly deny it, is just ignorance.

    • Frat says:

      01:05pm | 21/06/12

      Same with me.

    • Little Joe says:

      08:57pm | 21/06/12

      @ Acotrel

      Even though you lose all the arguments?? Isn’t that some form of diagnosed insanity??

    • Emma says:

      06:51am | 21/06/12

      There is a huge difference between a discussion online with people you dont know and one face to face with friends/family. In fact I only have a discussion with my family when I agree as I dont want to upset my father. It is not worth disrupting the peace just to make a point. So it really has to be something important to do that. I am more into harmony in real life, so I would never mention the word obesity when talking to an oversized friend or discuss my nonexisting belief with a religious person. All you achieve usually is making them and yourself feel bad. And what I totally dislike is arguments/fights in public. I have been raised to not allow outsiders to witness when something is amiss in my family or relationship. I find arguing couples in public really low.

    • Matchofbris says:

      08:07am | 21/06/12

      Agreed, domestic disputes in public are so awkward and embarrassing. People don’t seem to have any dignity when they start shouting at their partner in the Supermarket etc.

    • Rose says:

      08:48am | 21/06/12

      I spent years teaching my kids to argue respectfully. I allowed them to question my rule-making, but told them not to bother unless they had a solid case to put forward. The rules they were allowed to argue changed as they grew older, I still maintained that there were always going to be rules that are immovable, because I’m the mum and I said so, other rules that were immovable because it’s my house, I’m paying for it and I like it done my way and when they have their own homes I will do it their way when I’m there.I told them they can only argue the point, not the ‘man’ and that the argument should remain in the here and now, no point in dragging up misdemeanours from years gone by, that is nearly always aimed to hurt, not to help.
      My problem is that now, as young adults, they are quite likely to put up a really good case and occasionally even make me need to change my mind. I remain proud though that it is unlikely that I will ever be embarrassed by them in a confrontation or debate. They debated at school, and together with what I have taught them, they are capable of holding their own without being disrespectful. The only time that goes a bit awry is when it’s time to do the dishes or scrub the toilet, all bets are off then between the siblings!

    • Scotchfinger says:

      09:01am | 21/06/12

      Rose, excellent. Do they follow the elenchus method as invented by Socrates (i.e. probing and interrogating the validity of a proposition)? Or the dialectic, or a mixture? Too often arguments are polemics in disguise, advancing one’s own opinion despite equally valid counter-opinions. Which is actually about the passions, not true reason which at least aims at objectivity. Please give them a good copy of the Greek thinkers if you have not already.

    • Kika says:

      09:04am | 21/06/12

      Arguing with your spouse in public is totes wrong. However I am exceptionally used to it within my own family. My Dad’s family never do. We seem to be able to get along and be civil with each other (i.e. most of the members are men) However, my mothers side of the family (only women) a family gathering without an argument in her family is especially rare and strangely exceedingly odd. Makes me nervous if there are no arguments because it’s very clear they are either deliberately ignoring each other, hiding their true feelings/thoughts or one is just around the corner! It’s probably why I’m so warped! Rationality and civility in one half - Chav Essex insanity genes in the other.  My sister and I are stuck in between. Whilst I am not perfect either - I’ve had an argument with my sister about her bad driving, she kicked me out, I threw my shoes at her car a la Iraq style. 5 minutes later her car broke down. It works people. Throwing shoes at people works.

    • acotrel says:

      09:32am | 21/06/12

      The best way to bring up kids peacefully is to have plenty of rules and lashings of guilt as punishment if they transgress.  The trouble is they grow up to be liars or politicians. A better way might be to quietly discuss with them the risk and possible consequences of their actions.  But don’t ever let them see the great big club you are hiding behind your back.
      Can kids be legally divorced by their parents ?

    • acotrel says:

      09:43am | 21/06/12

      One lesson all managers need to learn is that it is always better to ask a question than make a statement.  If you barge in and do a rant and rave, you could have to defend yourself and be quietly shot down and made to look really stupid.  With kids and employees for that matter,  whatever you do with them reinforces their behaviour.  Eventually they must suceed in rolling you if you are overtly authoritarian. To stay in control of you need to use your intelligence and outsmart them.  The trouble is that they grow up and usually turn the tables.

    • acotrel says:

      09:53am | 21/06/12

      ‘Too often arguments are polemics in disguise, advancing one’s own opinion despite equally valid counter-opinions.’

      Ego is a problem, if you have got it,  it has to be fed !

    • PJ says:

      02:20pm | 21/06/12


      “The trouble is they grow up to be liars or politicians.”

      Not Labor Politicians surely?

      In which case should the conjunctive be an ‘And’ rather than an ‘or’?


    • Rose says:

      04:30pm | 21/06/12

      Acotrel, I did not want my kids growing as either compliant or defiant, I wanted them to grow up with the ability to conduct themselves civilly even when in disagreement with some one. I wanted them to be articulate and I wanted them to be able to show respect during confrontation. Mostly I wanted them to engage their brain before they engage their mouths. I made a point of this after hearing my husband describe his parent’s arguments, vicious I think would be the word to describe them, also after hearing some friends of ours having the same argument loudly and pointlessly for several years and after growing up in a household where arguments happened regularly but were semi-respectful most of the time. Only occasionally did my parents argue and not get stuff sorted, and their arguments always ended with a cup of tea and a chat about what was really going on. I figured that I would try and aim to promote the best and discourage the worst of behaviours during conflict and while the kids aren’t perfect, they are predominantly respectful, intelligent and open-minded.

    • Rugger says:

      06:52am | 21/06/12

      Good article. A gentleman is one who can disagree without being disagreeable! I love a good debate but hate it when it becomes a mud-slinging match. I also love to see teenagers who can argue intelligently and civilly and more importantly, who can listen with respect to other people’s ideas. Some people’s minds are so set in concrete that they cannot allow any other opinions in to be considered.

    • acotrel says:

      07:28am | 21/06/12

      We don’t seem to have debating societies these days ?  A while back we even had TV debates.

    • Rose says:

      02:50pm | 21/06/12

      TV debates may be as rare as hen’s teeth but school’s still do debating and uni’s usually have debating clubs, I don’t know about debating elsewhere but I’m sure that places would still exist.

    • TracyH says:

      07:47am | 21/06/12

      It’ll be funny to see if there’s any of the usual put downs on The Punch today! smile. I’m with you,Emma…I used to argue with my dad when I was younger, but now I finally realise harmony is sublime smile

      Acotel…there are still debating clubs in schools.

    • acotrel says:

      09:50am | 21/06/12

      I was involved in a TV debate against Xavier College when I was a student at Melbourne High School in the fiftes.  That stuff doesn’t get on free to air TV these days, but I’m glad to know it still happens within some schools. It is a really great mental exercise, and the experience og being in front of an audience is worth having.  These days I can get up at a conference and talk bullshit for half an hour with almost no effort whatsoever. I know some people hate public speaking, but it doesn’t fuss me in any way.  I’m always happy to do it.

    • E says:

      01:32pm | 21/06/12

      We know Acotrel, we know….

    • John (KRE) F says:

      08:35am | 21/06/12

      It’s to dangerous to argue with a women these days, a malicious DVO is SOOOOOOO easy to get. One moment your argueing and the next the police are knocking on the door to drag you away. I know because it’s happened to me and many many others.

    • Rose says:

      08:56am | 21/06/12

      Maybe you shouldn’t argue with your fists!!
      Or, maybe the relationship has broken down to the extent that neither party is be respectful in their arguments. Usually a DVO comes from somewhere, you may not recognize the reason one has been taken out but I guarantee that in almost all cases if there had been any consideration between the partners one wouldn’t have been sought and granted. So we go back to the central tenet of this piece, people don’t know how to argue, or deal with conflict and despite what you may claim, if a DVO is taken out against you, there is a good chance that you are as much a part of the problem as she is, or more!

    • Emma says:

      08:58am | 21/06/12

      I heard stories like that as well. I try not to judge though as usually you only hear one side of the story and the other side is bound to be very different.
      I have developed a funny theory though: When I have stress with someone hassling me, then I quit all contact, block the number, no reaction. That works well in 99 % of the cases. Women that call police though and report men and threaten with legal action seem to want a form of contact with that person. In an odd sense it forces the man to interact with them and they have a form of power over them. Has anyone ever noticed that? When I get asked for advice I tell people to ignore the person, but thats not what they really want although they say differently. They crave the drama. I have seen that with men and women though.

    • Scotchfinger says:

      09:04am | 21/06/12

      try arguing using the ‘talking stick’ method: ‘shush, I’m holding the talking stick now! My turn!’ We use it all the time, although it attracts some odd looks out in public.

    • Kika says:

      09:18am | 21/06/12

      What’s your definition of ‘arguing’?

    • Kika says:

      09:26am | 21/06/12

      @Emma - Have you ever personally had to deal with a boyfriend who was physically violent with you? Usually they don’t just assault you and then leave you alone. They usually are able to wear you down to a point where you think you can’t live without them, and if you leave, they will find you. My Aunty went through something with her ex husband where he used to get violent but could never leave because he threatened to track her down. Changing numbers and things doesn’t always work, particularly if that person is part of your family and you have children together - they can always find you through the grandparents or other family members. It’s not as simple as you think, and often there’s good reasons to get DVO’s.

    • John (KRE) F says:

      09:30am | 21/06/12

      @ Rose, I NEVER have argued with my fists, (normal response from someone who has never been in this position aarrrggghhhh) just check the current domestic violence laws, a normal argument with your spouse is technically enough to get you a DVO. Because of the small percentage of men who do do the wrong thing the rest of us are paying for it. It also gives women a huge advantage with regard to custody and property.

    • M says:

      09:40am | 21/06/12

      What’s a man to do if his girlfriend is assaulting him?

    • Emma says:

      09:43am | 21/06/12


      I am not talking about the “real” cases. I am sure there are cases where you have to call the police. I was referring to the comment above saying how easily women call police now just because they can and it will get the guy into trouble.

    • John (KRE) F says:

      10:09am | 21/06/12

      @ M, if the women is assualting you PROVE IT ! its very hard, in any case the police will require you to leave and not her. A police officer was telling me that the worst domestic violence situations they go to are lesbians, the police don’t know who to remove from the house !
      The same FEMALE officer also told me about the issue of White Knights in the force, because men are naturaly protective of women male officers will always side with the women. This officer told me that usually she has to wise up the male officers that they are being conned.

    • Inky says:

      10:39am | 21/06/12

      “What’s a man to do if his girlfriend is assaulting him? “

      As far as I can tell, there’s not much you can do *shrug* Just hope I’m never in such a position.

    • Rose says:

      10:42am | 21/06/12

      John, do you accept any responsibility for your relationship breakdown or the tone of the breakdown? Because that’s the point I was making, that it takes two to tango and, if it’s got to the point where some one gets a DVO I’d consistently argue that, even if the actual DVO is stretching it, there has been enough acrimony on both sides to allow it to get it to that point, Rarely, if ever, has anyone who has shown respect to their former spouse had a DVO slapped on them.
      As I said before, it gets back to an inability to deal with conflict and confrontation.
      Unless of course you are going to play the increasingly popular all men are victims card, because that card is as much bullshit as the all women are victims card!!

    • acotrel says:

      10:54am | 21/06/12

      I virtually never argued with my ex, so there was never any resolution of our problems.  I’ve remarried to a beautiful stroppy little lady who loves me as much as she loves her father.  Strange as it might sound,  I feel very secure in our relationship. . Having a partner who gets into passive resistance and silent hate is a fate worse than death. If you are married you’ve got to be prepared to fight, but never let it go past sundown.

    • Bev says:

      10:59am | 21/06/12

      M says:09:40am | 21/06/12

      What’s a man to do if his girlfriend is assaulting him?

      Nothing!  If you attempt to stop her by say holding her arms and leave a bruise you are now the aggressor and will be arrested. DV laws are loaded against men

    • acotrel says:

      11:05am | 21/06/12

      A lot of this stuff is about mind games and control. What about the situation where the fella decides he wants custody of the kid, provokes his wife until she hits him, then has her charged and gets a DVO against her, which she breaks the next time he provokes her ?  How do you stop his excessive violence when he retaliates and his wife won’t file a complaint?

    • Markus says:

      11:57am | 21/06/12

      @Rose, how much the relationship between the two has broken down is irrelevant to .
      Unless violence has actually come into the equation, filing for a DVO is never an acceptable response to a relationship breakdown.
      The problem there is that even Emma’s solution of removing yourself from the toxic situation and refusing any contact is now enough to fall into the category of abuse.

      ‘Rarely, if ever, has anyone who has shown respect to their former spouse had a DVO slapped on them.’
      You know this how?

    • Rose says:

      02:11pm | 21/06/12

      ” ‘Rarely, if ever, has anyone who has shown respect to their former spouse had a DVO slapped on them.’
      You know this how?”
      I have gathered this from the numerous conversations I have had with children and their parents when providing therapy to children suffering mental illness. The therapy is usually needed as a result of poor parenting practices, abuse and neglect or because children have been living in homes with DV and/or constant conflict. The DV we deal with is predominantly with a male perpetrator but sometimes it is mum who is to blame. With conflict, it is most often that both parents tend to go outside the bounds of reasonable arguments and use other, more damaging tactics. Rarely do these parents consider the impact they are having on their children until something happens where the child’s behaviour or demeanour takes a big dive or can no longer be ignored.
      I never said that getting unnecessary DVO’s was acceptable, I just pointed out that it usually happens when the two warring parties are incapable of dealing with their conflict rationally, remebering of course that DV is not always violent. Emotional abuse and financial abuse can be just as harmful, and DVO’s in those cases are also often warranted.

    • John (KRE) F says:

      03:02pm | 21/06/12

      Fair answer Rose, but judging by your very first answer I would assume that you always see the male as guilty first until proven otherwise. Don’t worry because the courts, police and the general public all think the same way as you. Maybe if people in general started to realise that there are women out there willing to use everything at their disposal to hurt their current and former partners then maybe life for everyone will get better. The only people I have met who know the truth are police WOMEN ! They can see through women’s lie’s that male officers can’t.
      p.s. KRE stands for Kids Right’s Extremist. To many children are being hurt because of vindictive mothers !

    • renold says:

      03:15pm | 21/06/12

      In SA there is something called VIP ..violence intervention program..used to be run by the Salvo’s, these days it is part of the Court Administration Authority.

      It’s a ” counselling"program to deal with Restraining Orders, it’s only for men.

      You want to meet female violence and child abuse apologists, you will find out it is the most extreem feminist program within the entire judiciary.

      The Punch will never investigate these sort of things, doesnt sit well with their leftie pinko ideology

    • Rose says:

      03:52pm | 21/06/12

      John, you comment “To many children are being hurt because of vindictive mothers” actually shows that your main concern is not for kids, it’s for their dads. The statement should be “Too many children are being hurt because of vindictive PARENTS!!”
      My first comment included the sentence “Maybe you shouldn’t argue with your fists” which I assume is what you were referring to when you say I automatically blame the male. That comment wasn’t about MEN, it was about YOU!! The tone of your comment seemed to generalize about DVO’s, their purpose and why people get them, it was kind of a dig to show how one sided your comment was.
      Dealing with kids who are troubled buy their parent’s conduct is eye-opening, particularly when you listen to their parent’s perceptions of normal. You need to leave all your previous ideas at the door, many people’s lives are stranger and far more disturbing than fiction. Screaming, threatening, belittling, baiting and abusing your partner or ex-partner are not normal, that’s completely unacceptable and it damages everyone involved, especially the kids ( they are the ones who have no choice but to live in this environment) and will always lead to a worse situation than necessary. I’m sure sometimes parents get DVO’s not because they feel threatened, but because they need space. Not a good reason sure, but in these cases it seems parents go for whatever seems to work at the time, regardless of how it affects anybody else.

    • Rose says:

      04:19pm | 21/06/12

      John you’ll also find I usually use the word PARENTS, because neither gender has a monopoly on poor parenting and/or poor conflict resolution practices smile

    • John (KRE) F says:

      04:25pm | 21/06/12

      @ Rose, “Screaming, threatening, belittling, baiting and abusing your partner or ex-partner are not normal, that’s completely unacceptable and it damages everyone involved, especially the kids”.
      Yes I know having being a victim of EXACTLY that ! But just to finish me off she got a DVO as well.
      Lets not also forget parental alienation, having not seen 2 of my kids for 4 years. What do you make of a women who smiles at you when she knows she has REALLY hurt you badly ? 
      Do you really believe that all women are angels and all men are bastards ?
      My current partner of 4 years was advised by her friends to take out a DVO on her ex husband, for what reason you ask ? Just to have him removed from the house, he didnt do anything wrong. my partner doesnt socialise with this same group of bitches anymore.

    • Jinx says:

      04:50pm | 21/06/12

      Seriously John - do you look at what you write “Do you really believe that all women are angels and all men are bastards ?” pot-kettle-black. You post aggressive, whinging posts about women as a whole like we’re the devil and yet you criticise someone else.

      Do you use this just a forum to have a whinge about your life - you are constantly at it. I’d like to hear your wife’s side of the story before believing that you are so hard done by.

    • Rose says:

      04:58pm | 21/06/12

      Jeepers John, back to my earlier question, do you consider yourself completely blameless or do you see that you contributed in some way to the cause and tone of the break-up? Remembering of course that all relationships are different and even if the blame rests pretty much all in one corner, that doesn’t automatically mean that that is the case for the majority of that gender.
      I suggest you go over what you’ve written before you accuse anyone of saying one gender are all angels and the other all devils. People from both genders are capable of incredible cruelty and nether can take the higher moral ground when it comes to behaviour in relationships or in break-ups. It is not me who is picking sides smile

    • renold says:

      06:11pm | 21/06/12

      Living in denial of extreme feminist policies and practices within the Authorities in regards to DV and child abuse, you might as well deny the Holocaust.

    • Max Power says:

      07:48pm | 21/06/12

      My Missus will occassionally resort to violence in an argument. When I asked her why she feels the need to try and hit me, she replies, I know you want hit me back.

    • John (KRE) F says:

      08:22am | 22/06/12

      @ Rose, “To many children are being hurt because of vindictive mothers” actually shows that your main concern is not for kids, it’s for their dads. The statement should be “Too many children are being hurt because of vindictive PARENTS!!”
      Why do so many women take what you say and then change it around to suit their argument ?
      Its rarer for men to be long term vindictive, men usually loose their temper for 30 min and then calm down, some of us will strike out and hit someone, others like me will go for a walk and cool down. Its vindictive WOMEN who have custody of their children that can do the most mental damage to their children, very rarley is it men who use these tactics. The PC brigade will use the reference PARENTS when it is odvious that women are more in the wrong but when its men they are refered to as MEN, fathers, dead beat dads, sperm donars etc etc. Can you think of any equivelant labels for mum’s ?
      If you really want EQUALITY then fight for true equality, not just the bits that give women an un-fair advantage, have the police remove the aggresive woman from the house, actsept that men are far less willing to use legal avenues to get help and so they are under represented in domestic violence stats, recognise that SOME women use their children to hurt their former partners.
      I know for a fact that there are many good women out there that completly agree with what I’m saying. Men like me just want equality in this particular area, just like women want equality in so many many other area’s, if and when this does change maybe far fewer children will be all messed up because of parental alienation. Why is that so hard

    • Craig says:

      08:49am | 21/06/12

      So people didn’t have disagreements before the internet?


      This is just another attempt by a (failing) mainstream media masthead to justify why it is more relevant than other channels.

      Harmony is dangerous. When disagreements are suppressed it leads to societies where inequalities are glossed over and inappropriate behaviour is tolerated.

      They just said something mildly racist? Better not say anything because they might get offended.

      They just accused someone of something they didn’t do? Better to keep silent or agree so I keep their approval.

      They just took away the people in the next house and we don’t know where they went? Better to say nothing about it and actively dissuade anyone in our house from talking about it or we might be next.

      Harmony is ripe ground for bullies and dictators.

      Argument and passionate discussion is an important set of tools in maintaining civilisation, community and society.

      Without the acceptance of open and clear expression of differences we can’t sustain democracy.

      And we cannot rely on proxies, such as media interests, or the outspoken minority (activists) to do all the hard work of democracy for us. That’s lazy, irresponsible and seds a message that if only a small number of people or papers are silenced, the rest of the population will fall into line like good little robots.

      We must all be prepared to stand up and be countered, to argument, debate and question - sometimes in ‘disobedient’ ways.

      Otherwise we are letting down our forebears and our children.

    • Scotchfinger says:

      09:07am | 21/06/12

      @Craig, I agree up to a point. Oops, I just agreed with you… please don’t get mad! Or do get mad, it’s good…but you’re annoyed because I agreed with you… oh God, tied up on a logical paradox! I hate you.

    • Kika says:

      09:21am | 21/06/12

      Absolutely agree
      “Harmony is dangerous. When disagreements are suppressed it leads to societies where inequalities are glossed over and inappropriate behaviour is tolerated”
      This can be brought down to the micro level too - in personal relationships. Inequalities ARE often glossed over when healthy debate and argument is suppressed and inappropriate behaviour IS tolerated.

    • acotrel says:

      10:58am | 21/06/12

      ‘They just took away the people in the next house and we don’t know where they went? Better to say nothing about it and actively dissuade anyone in our house from talking about it or we might be next.
      Harmony is ripe ground for bullies and dictators. ‘

      Isn’t that why we have the media to indoctrinate us ?

    • Emma says:

      11:32am | 21/06/12

      Harmony is good. My mommy says “never go to bed angry”. Harmony does not equal suppressed anger. Harmony means seeking and working towards balance.

    • Damian says:

      12:38pm | 21/06/12

      According to the great thinker Homer, that’s actually “don’t go to bed hungry”.

    • PaxUs says:

      11:02am | 22/06/12

      I think you’re confusing status quo with harmony.

    • marley says:

      08:55am | 21/06/12

      I think there’s a missing element here - teaching kids to debate (I prefer that word to “argument”) is fine, but it only works if we also teach them to listen.  Debate/argument involves more than simply bouncing from one foot to the other while your opponent speaks, waiting for your turn and ignoring the points he’s making.  Too many discussions these days simply involve taking turns stating one’s own position, more loudly each time, without ever responding to the points being made by the opponent.  There’s no real interaction or exchange of thoughts, just a spiral of “I’m right” “No, you’re wrong and I’m right” - and not, ever, “hmm, that’s an interesting point…”

      That happens an awful lot in the blogosphere, not to mention real life.

    • acotrel says:

      12:52pm | 21/06/12

      I always read your comments, and they are usually interesting/informative. I sometimes disagree with you on industrial management issues.  We obviously have had very different experiences, but your comments are valuable to me.

    • marley says:

      04:18pm | 21/06/12

      @acotrel - well thanks for that - and here’s to future disagreements on management issues   wink

    • Scotchfinger says:

      09:10am | 21/06/12

      The girl in the caption at the top looks like a real princess, all sulky pouting. No wonder her dad looks grim. I pray my daughter never gets that look on her face.

    • Economist says:

      09:39am | 21/06/12

      It more looks like she’s had botox. I’m sure your own princess will learn to push your buttons.

      Well my prince,  has mastered the teenage argument abilities at the age of 5. We ask him what he did at school today and the response it, “don’t know or can’t remember”. When disclipining or trying to get the behaviour we want, we give him two choices to select from, but at times he elects his own option of just self disciplining and/or going to his room. What a little bugger.

    • Scotchfinger says:

      10:30am | 21/06/12

      ha ha, I hope you are teaching him about negative externalities as well. Please don’t fill his head with Nash game theory, it has been debunked, I think.

    • Kika says:

      09:15am | 21/06/12

      I never argued with my parents when I was younger - not even when I was a teenager. I think I’ve hit my rebellious years now as a 29 year old… I grew up amongst arguing. I can’t remember a night where my parents didn’t violently argue with each other as a small kid - they still argue but I’m not aware as to how much thanks to being married and having my own life - thank god. My Mum grew up with 3 other sisters and her Mum (her father died young) in a tiny house - and they are all a bit touched in the head violent arguing was normal for them. Vacuum cleaners hit in the head, hot tea thrown in each other’s faces… very normal. When Dad first met Mum he was afraid of spending more time than necessary with them…  Even though they are all middle aged now they still argue with each other regularly and like I said above a family gathering without one of them yelling and crying about stuff than happened when they were 3 is very odd.

      However… even though I grew up amongst such insanity I value the art of arguing. I cannot understand those who don’t believe in it or who are afraid of them.  To me, if you can’t argue properly - and I don’t mean like my Mum’s family - with decent logic and a cool calm demeanour and the ability to rationalise with the other person - that’s really bad because how do you ever get to express your real feelings? I see people like this and I feel sorry for them because they seem so bottled up inside and one day the stress of not being able to Vent will kill them. My Dad hates confrontation (odd hey given who he married).

      Arguing (rationally) with your spouse is important and healthy. It’s not always wrong. As long as you can see each other’s points and come to a solution and argeement at the end you can both be better for it. Otherwise one of you are always going to be the compromising one (aka doormat) until you can’t stand it any longer and you lose ability to love that person anymore. If you CAN argue with each other and still love each other just as much as before the argument then I think that’s really healthy and a really good sign.

    • Scotchfinger says:

      10:03am | 21/06/12

      I’m by far the most argumentative person I know personally, and I’m always trying to convince other people the same point the author is making. If someone can argue reasonably then I am usually happy to concede a point. However your mum’s family sounds like they have other problems, i.e. vacuuming each other’s heads is not particularly loving.

    • Kika says:

      11:14am | 21/06/12

      No, not - vaccuming their heads would be the nice way. No no, we’re talking smashing each other in the head with the pipe. And in those days, they were metal. Strangely enough they all really love each other - they just express themselves in exceedingly odd ways.  Whoever said females weren’t aggressive? One Aunty even tried to throw herself out of a moving car on the freeway during an argument!

    • Emma says:

      01:24pm | 21/06/12

      I remember witnessing as an approx 12 yo a friend of mine calling his mother names and yelling at her. I was holding my breath as if I was caught stealing sweets from the supermarket. How some people talk to their kids/parents leaves me speechless. Not even when I am really upset would I ever call my own mother a b*tch. I know it would hurt her terribly and I would not forgive myself. I could tell her afterwards a million times how much I love her but she would never forget that one word. Some people destroy so much when they argue.

    • Bob Stewart, the Elder says:

      09:21am | 21/06/12

      This is a subject for today and importantly for tomorrow lest we become bogged down with our own self.
      Jerry Spence , a lawyer, wrote a best seller, ” How To Argue and Win Every Time” and a well read dog eared copy of it in my library has provided the means to maintain a very healthy and happy relationship between myself, my two wives and 8 children. Well, 7 of them anyway.
      I stopped having children when I began to realize what must have been causing them. The oldest has just turned 60 and the youngest 15 and you will calculate that it must have been 15 years ago that I came to the conclusion just expressed.

      Jerry Spence has this to say in the opening comments to his analysis. “We have traveled to the Moon and back but as we launched ourselves into outer space, we send forth a severely retarded species. In essence we remain the brute, for when confronted the brute attacks and when fired with need or desire the brute takes by force from the weaker members of the hierarchy”

      And further,” It is an anomaly that we can split the atom but we are nearly powerless to persuade each other to embrace justice” ..... “We have learned how to dominate people as things”......... 

      Now, if I were to be completely disingeneous it would be easy to relate this to the present Government.

    • Inky says:

      09:55am | 21/06/12

      I stand by my statement that if I can’t have silly little arguments that ultimately mean nothing and both parties know these are in jest, it’s just not a relationship.

      If I can’t stir and tease and receive the same in kind, it’s just not fun.

    • The right place for an argument says:

      10:25am | 21/06/12

      Will this be a five-minute argument, or the full half hour?

    • St. Michael says:

      11:29am | 21/06/12

      No it isn’t.

    • Em says:

      02:56pm | 21/06/12

      St Michael, you didn’t answer the question! Monty Python fail…

      Which may also be a win, considering the sketch.

    • John says:

      11:28am | 21/06/12

      I think violent men are hard wired by DNA and mental states. It’s some type of sub-conscious idea of losing control(Money, Family, Respect) beginning dominated that cause’s men to go into a fear state which cause’s him to be physically defensive.  This responsibility factor’s cause’s it. It show how trigger’s the instinctual brain and shuts off the emotional and rational brain.

      So many years of responsibility could send men into a cycle, pattern of defensive fear, which makes him aggressive when pushed to limits. 

      When men and men interact, when one try’s to dominate the other, it’s automatic response, is always an argument or physical confrontation, this could just happen in seconds. This happens especially, if a person’s brain is programmed to be instinctual, in a fear state(gang member, high testosterone with low intelligence, outlaw bikes, police, army) The reason why most people are in jail, is because of fear, instinctual brain takes over and they lose control and end up in jail. 

      Since men have taken huge responsibility’s, one can see how over the years the father the leader of house has gone into fear states which has caused clash’s with the wife.

    • Colin says:

      12:19pm | 21/06/12

      Some research done years ago in prisons showed that criminals tend to act impulsively. When they are not taught good discipline they are not taught self-discipline. This is basically criminal neglect from the parents in child upbringing. The apple does not fall far from the tree, so a chain-reaction that goes from generation to generation continues unless someone with intelligence and initiative decides to do something about breaking the cycle. Action, not excuses, is what is needed. Burke is alleged to have said that for evil to triumph, all that is needed is that good men do nothing. I would say that if you do nothing you are no good.

    • Jinx says:

      12:38pm | 21/06/12

      WTF - crap. If you’re living your life in a constant state of fear that’s pushing you to the edge and making you aggressive then you need to see a shrink. It’s not a normal way of living. I think as an individual you can’t handle the responsibility of a family and are just trying to project this onto men as a whole.

      Clash’s with the wife are because of two people not seeing eye-to-eye and is a normal part of a relationship and not because men can’t handle responsibility.

    • Kika says:

      01:20pm | 21/06/12

      I’ve seen a documentary once that claimed that some men have inherited the so called ‘warrior’ gene - where their amygdala’s are hyper sensitive, so to speak. Often these men end up in jail or in trouble with the law at some point as they speak with their fists. They tried to say the men who are addicted to body building and weights training may also have inherited this tendency as they feel release from pushing their bodies. Obviously the quick fire amygdala has evolutionary advantage - but I’d like to know whether it’s only men who have it because I know a lot of girls these days tend to have out of control amygdalas too.

    • renold says:

      02:47pm | 21/06/12

      What about violent women then?

    • John says:

      02:49pm | 21/06/12


      I watched it also, it seems like some groups are more prone to having this gene. I’ve noticed pattern in specific groups who are know to snap and most people know this, and basically avoid confederations with these groups, as they will get violent fair quickly. I think i have this gene, as i realized I have temper as I’ve been analyzing my self in stressful situations, but I think my high intelligence keeps it in control. I kinda realized my father’s problems and other males are facing the same issues.

      The more financial stress, family stress, and work stress all contributes to fiery tempers, with the warrior gene it just makes it worse. I’ve also noticed my other female family member also have fiery tempers but not the my mother. It seems like an inheritance from my father. But as male i think I control my temper better then my sisters, as we males act more on rational, then feelings and emotions.

    • Colin says:

      12:10pm | 21/06/12

      All conflicts, whether between individuals or nations, is because at least one of the parties displays disrespect towards the other. Married couples think they have the right to be disrespectful just because they are married to someone. Parents think they do not have to respect their children because they are the parent. Relational position does not give one the right to disrespect others rights. You have to open your mind and realise that they all can teach you something. I have even learnt things from my pets.

    • spain 1 croatia 0 says:

      12:17pm | 21/06/12

      is the world all about conflict or consensus?

    • Pandabater says:

      01:03pm | 21/06/12

      1. To sucessfully take one side in an argument you must be able to argue for both sides.
      2. You can win an argument but nobody wins a fight.

    • Rose says:

      03:03pm | 21/06/12

      At uni we were asked to divide into groups according to our point of view on asylum seekers and mandatory detention, for and against. We were then told to argue for the opposition’s case. It was difficult but it gives you a better perspective, the whole walk in some one else’s moccasin type thing. I definitely didn’t change my opinion, but I softened a little. Some people did alter their opinions and all walked away better for experience.

    • Ken Oath says:

      01:15pm | 21/06/12

      Dear All,

      Please get a copy of ‘Straight and Crooked Thinking’ by Robert H. Thouless. There are no doubt several Ph.D papers that could written on the flawed arguments and techniques commonly used in the Punch blogosphere.

      Hours of fun for all!

    • St. Michael says:

      02:44pm | 21/06/12

      The short version: in debating, there are only two intellectually honest debating tactics.  One is to debate the facts.  The other is to debate the logic.  All other tactics—from argumentum ad hominem, to straw man, to the Hunch perennial favourite the solo personal experience—are intellectually dishonest.

    • stephen says:

      08:49pm | 21/06/12

      There are many debating tactics, and that you have used modifiers ‘intellectually dishonest’ indicates to me that your web site needs another modifier.

    • St. Michael says:

      10:54pm | 21/06/12

      Are you saying there are any other debating tactics which do not contain logical fallacies or are simply changing the subject or retreating in another form, stephen?

      If so, then please, enlighten us.  Inquiring minds want to know.  Dipshit.

    • amy says:

      01:32pm | 21/06/12

      I think peopel really need to understand terms like (understand…not spell)

      false dychotomy
      straw man
      cognitive bias
      anecdotal evidence

      and the fact that most of us don’t know alot in the grand scheme of things

    • Ken Oath says:

      02:31pm | 21/06/12


      You certainly put the sexy into dyslexic!

    • Lasa Bailey says:

      03:35pm | 21/06/12

      As a child we were taught, ‘you never have a family discussion in public’, only behind closed doors, why because my family was an ‘A typical dysfunctional family’, if we did wrong or were perceived to do wrong, we were beaten to within a inch of our lives, most times in the bath (we were naked and could not run away) now my parents did not have it right, but they raised us the way they were raised (to the best of their ability), I on the other hand dislike any kind of argument, mainly because I learned to end conflict with violence, very quickly, I believe I have grown since those early days, but having said that I could NEVER hit or hurt my wife or children, but arguments do happen, I see them these days as an avenue to clear the air and start afresh, no two people will agree completely , there are always divisions, but it is these same differences and divisions that both attract and repel us from people, these science types have just come up with what I learned though years of abuse, arguments are good so long as they are not physical or emotional abuse, physical abuse lasts for a term, emotional abuse lasts forever if you let it

    • Little Joe says:

      09:06pm | 21/06/12

      I simply do not understand why parents argue with their children ..... tippie-toe around their teenage vanities and self importance ..... my son now understands that I pay for the electricity .... it is that simple!!!

    • PaxUs says:

      10:30am | 22/06/12

      Logical arguments are rendered meaningless by over embellishment of four letter words.  Some people appear to carry a swear-word thesaurus in their hip pockets or perhaps their smart phones.  Screaming is not part of a logical argument and name-calling will get you nowhere.


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