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How do you handle teen arrogance/argumentative attitude?

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I know it's developmental, and I know in some ways it is a good thing. But this morning, for instance, ds14 wants to argue with me over this problem: his geometry book has asked if 3 points in a diagram can be on the same line, and the answer is no, but his answer is, "Yes, if the line is not a straight line." Not only does he want that to be his answer, but he's ready to go to the mat with me on it. Doesn't matter when I have him look up the technical geometric definition of a line, doesn't matter when I try to tell him that it is the difference between precise and conversational word usage, doesn't matter when I tell him he will fail geometry if he can't show enough wisdom to recognize that when a problem refers to a line, it is referring to a straight line. :glare: I mean, seriously, he won't get past page 10 this way!!! And this is a kid who is strong in math. How do you handle that sort of attitude with your teens?!! Thank you!!



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"Math has formal definitions of words that mean something looser in everyday English. 'Line' is just one example. In math you have to use the mathematical definitions of words--think of this course as learning a foreign language in that regard. I'm not interested in discussing whether math should or should not be that way. If you want to write an essay about it the next time you have a free essay writing assignment, feel free. In the meantime, please use mathematic language when we are doing math, and don't talk about it. There are plenty of other math topics to discuss that are more fruitful."

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(Assuming you've already had the technical talk.)


"Cute, that's creative, but it sure won't get you very far in a college or high school math class, so it certainly won't here. Now let's move on."


Some kids will argue forever about something. They almost always "get it" once it's explained, but they just don't want to let go. Moving on helps them "let go" without "losing" anything. If they later insist on doing it on a test, mark it wrong and keep the grade for it. That's what we do in school where we often run in to this sort of problem. Fortunately, very, very few will insist to the point of putting it on a test like that.

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Is the attitude a new thing? Could it be an outward expression of frustration, uncertainty, some other issue he is wrestling with but not ready to share? I find that, instead of locking horns, humor seems to diffuse the situation and help us move past it. I have had to recognize that there will be days of them reverting back to the maturity of a 2 year old and just roll with it. When the storm has passed and things are calm, we sit down and discuss what is going on. I let them know that their behavior was disrespectful, but I don't hammer it in. They know. I try to help them get to what is behind their bull-headedness.

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Do not engage. As you parent longer (some of us are slow), you will recognize when your child just "wants to argue". I found a book I previously did not like became my best friend as I parented older kids. Not wanting to debate the book, YMMV.


The book is "Love & Logic". I didn't study the book - I skimmed it and picked up the idea of empathetic listening and it works miracles with my preteens and teens. And choosing not to argue.


We've been using it a year or so and with my argumentative (but maturing) 17yod, I can usually say, "I'm not going to debate line definitions with you. No time this morning. If you want to write a letter, send an email, phone.... the geometry author/publishers, feel free to do that on your own time." End of argument.


Basically, I try to have the teen "own" their opinion & resolve it at the level that the opinion is important to them. If it isn't important enough to follow up with the info source, it is usually arguing for argument's sake.


Careful, these teens are skilled at pulling us in to argue! Masters of it!


Good luck!


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Besides the age level attitude thing, there's something in there that was a major hurdle to get my mathy son past. It has to do with the fact that "some" things in math are random, subjective, but agreed-upon ways of doing things.


A mathy kid often *loves* the objectiveness of math, the absolute, sure-fire, black-n-white of math. Therefore, he comes to a screeching halt and balks at the fact that some things have to be decided upon subjectively. Definitions of words, and choices of words, are one of those subjective things. There is no *logical* reason that a line has to always mean something straight -- we've just decided to all agree that we're always talking about a straight line when we use the word. That kind of subjective consensus is more easily swallowed by non-mathy kids, I think.


Each time we reach one of those types of stumbling blocks, the way to get my ds to accept the consensus has always been to get him to realize that we all *must* agree on *something* or we'll all be getting different results from the same problem. That doesn't sit well with him. I show him different problems and let him do it his way and I'll do it my way, and ask him how you can do math at all if you get different answers. Lead him to the understanding that there must be some subjective rules.


Ideally, the next step would be for him to realize that the folks who chose the rules are learned folks who knew what the best course would end up being. I'm not sure a junior high aged kid is going to be at this step yet, though.



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I've had this discussion with my kids before.


My standard answer:


Great, I have an idea. ":lurk5:" is now the new symbol for "3". I think you should write a paper about it. I think you should start a campaign. I think you should drop every other productive thing that you ever do with your life - hmmm.... perhaps you should use your video-game time - in order to convince every small child and every busy adult that instead of using the symbol "3", they should now take the time to draw the symbol ":lurk5:" in order to express 3-ness.


"Three cows" now can be written ":lurk5: cows."


Hmmmmmm.... perhaps you would like to change the English symbol for "cows" too.... in your spare time, of course. Let's see. "gfhdjgfkhdgjk"


Harder to spell, of course. But I suggest you make a poster and start picketing down on the corner next weekend.


When you were little, I diligently taught you to use the symbol "3" properly. Did I steer you wrong? Was I wasting your time then? Or has the information been relatively useful all these years? Hmmm???? Aren't you glad we didn't grind things to a halt when you were five in order to entertain your grand, but ill-conceived ideas about the proper use of the symbol "3"? Did I really do the wrong thing by ignoring you and telling you to hush up, move on, and just accept the symbol according to its standard usage?


Where were we? "line"

Hmmm.... shall we just stick with the symbol "line" and ALIGN OURSELVES WITH the usage that every other mathematician on the planet has ALIGNED himself with, hmmmm?, my dearie?


"I get it Mom. I get it." said with slight disgust, but complete submission.


No one wants to change the world if changing the world cuts into hard-earned video-game time.





Enjoy your little people

Enjoy your journey


P.S. Keep your big-girl pants on. Teaching geometry to teens can be quite challenging. So far I'm on kid #3, and we are still crashing on the on-ramp. For some strange reason, mid-lesson in every geometry session I become an idiot, and my son becomes a genius. Every lesson. By the end of the lesson, Mom earns an A and the boy finds out he was wrong. BUT every day, for some strange reason, Mom doesn't know what she's doing mid-lesson again. (I just can't seem to get ONE kid to trust me early in this process - no matter how dependable my track record. We have to crash on that ramp for about the first fifty tries before the kid will JUST drive the way I tell 'em to. I'm sick of trying to change it. I'm just waiting for the crash-quota to be met with this last kid, so we can just get out onto the open highway and DRIVE! I used to doubt myself with my two older kids. Age just brings patience. Now I just have the wisdom to wait.)

Edited by Janice in NJ
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I am not looking forward to dealing with this in a few years; I have no doubt my oldest will have this attitude. I also what to throw out there to not assume that geometry will come easily to a "mathy" child. Geometry is different than previous math courses and some mathy kids don't "get" geometry and some children previously frustrated by math find geometry easier.

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Janice in NJ: Love your comments. I'm on #3 too, and spend a lot of time being an idiot. My oldest, would say, when faced with a word, phrase or idea she did not accept, "I'll just call it ________." Argh. I'd say, okay, just remember the whole rest of the world still calls it that other word, and you've got to remember your new code.

I like what you said much better!


Shelly: One thing that helped a bit, with #3, is to make debate time happen. At first it seemed to just whet his appetite, but then, when the learning debate times would end in laughing, or amazement, or admiration....it took about 20 time for him to realize......the debate/attitude/oneupsmanship/correction mode on every other little thing, seemed to abate. Sometimes, when it is not genuine academic challenging, but timewasting/piddling, I do point out that we'll finish this, no matter what. And the clock will tick on. And he'll lose any free time he may have had.


Good luck! Hope this thread continues, good ideas here. Patience is prob the#1 best suggestion. I'm thinking.

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