When it comes to learning styles, people often analyze children for various traits that would classify them as visual learners, audio learners, kinesthetic learners, and so on. However, did you know that arguing is actually a learning style for various personality types? I know this might be met with a lack of enthusiasm by parents with argumentative children. You might be thinking, “Wait! I have to keep putting up with this? No way!”. I ask you to give me a chance to explain.

One of the major topics of my blog here is the MBTI®, and the Jungian Cognitive Functions. These tools help us to understand how people perceive and interact with the world. Each person functions very differently from the next, and all of us have a tendency to think that ‘our way’ is the only right way. This just isn’t the case. People all learn differently, and for some people, arguing is the best way to learn.

If you’re not sure about the reliability of personality testing, you can check out my posts on this here, here and here. I know, that’s a lot of links, but I was determined to cover the validity of the MBTI® thoroughly before delving into it more.

Who are the most argumentative Myers-Briggs® types?

Without a doubt, the consensus seems to be that the NT (Intuitive Thinking) personality types are the most argumentative. They also happen to be incredibly ingenious and highly innovative in their thinking. The reason for this is that intuitive thinkers tend to want to find the most primal, logical, basic truth behind an idea. “This is how it’s always been done” will not appeal to an NT. If you tell your NT child to use table manners, for example, they’re going to want a really clear, logical explanation for why. Believe me, I have an NT child, and from experience know this to be true. Saying, “because I said so” will likely cause a backlash. You’ll either end up driving yourself crazy or shutting them down over time and blocking out what is a fundamental way of learning for them.

Why are they so argumentative?

Intuitive types aren’t content with what is or has always been, they want to know why things are and what they mean. NTs want logic and they like to change things to make them better. They do this by essentially arguing with the standard, and finding ways to improve it. What NTs don’t want are generalized statements, platitudes, or tradition-oriented rules. They will not subscribe to any belief system or set of rules without first making sure it holds up to intense scrutiny. Their skeptical mind is something that can’t be turned on or off, it’s an essential part of how they function as people.

While an NT child may be perceived as being defiant, they simply can’t allow themselves to learn from something without holding it up to criticism first. Many parents and teachers, especially SJ types, can misread this as being an open form of rebellion or pride. Since 40% of the population is comprised of SJ personality types, and NT’s only comprise 5-10% of the population, they are often outnumbered. SJ types are especially common in elementary and grade school teaching professions, and can be turned off by the debative nature of NT’s, who are often labeled as problem students in school.

If my child argues does that mean they are an NT personality type?

Absolutely not. Every child is going to argue at some point, some more than others based on upbringing and environment and what has been allowed. However, if you notice that your child has a particular bent towards arguing, and it’s not always just to get out of something, or because they’re in a state of anger, it’s a possibility to consider. If your child is otherwise obedient, but then when it comes to arguing, has a very hard time holding their tongue, they may be an NT type. Trying to figure out your child’s personality type can take you very far in understanding and working with them effectively.

Characteristics of NT personality types:

– NTs tend to be pragmatic, skeptical, self-contained, and focused on problem-solving and systems analysis.
– NTs pride themselves on being ingenious, independent, and strong willed.
– NTs are usually even-tempered, they trust logic, yearn for achievement, seek knowledge, prize technology, and dream of understanding how the world works.

The analytical, problem-solving nature of NTs is part of why arguing is such an important learning tool for them. Another thing to keep in mind is that NT types are not feelers, they may not thoroughly understand emotions or feelings in an equation. This means that if you try to argue with them based on emotions it may just confuse and overwhelm them. I’ll write more about NT types in the future, to help you discern if this is your child’s personality type.

So you’re saying arguing is a good thing?

Done the right way, arguing can be a good thing. Infante and Rancer, who developed the argumentativeness scale that is used throughout universities worldwide, said, “Arguing stimulates curiosity and increases learning because individuals tend to seek out information about the issues on which they argue. Arguing reduces egocentric thinking and forces individuals to explore issues from multiple perspectives.”

Research has also shown that “high argumentatives” are seen as more credible, eloquent, creative, and self-assured. Now, this doesn’t mean we should just let our children walk all over us and argue about every little task they’re given and every point you have to bring up. The goal is to harness this assertive gift they’ve been given and teach them to use it in the appropriate ways, at the appropriate times. Don’t stifle it. Too many parents try to just squash what they find irritating in their child, without really understanding it. This does an incredible disservice to a child who needs to learn to stick up for themselves, their beliefs, and who needs to research the ‘why’s’ of what they believe. If you have an NT child, you need to be especially aware that ignoring and shutting up their natural skepticism effectively dismantles their natural learning style.

So I just need to let my child argue as much as they want?

No, not as much as they want. Your child needs a way to have a healthy debate with you as his parent. This could mean having a set time every day to go over any questions he has about things that have happened. This can be a safe time for him to air his concerns and questions, and get to the bottom of why life is the way it is, rules are the way they are, etc,.

A practical approach to dealing with the argumentative child

1. Keep Your Perspective
Remember that the same qualities that cause your child to argue too much can also make them great leaders someday. Argumentative NT type children can also have an easier time standing up against peer pressure because of their firm grasp on logic and rationality. Remember that arguing is a way for them to learn and accept truths, and it’s not always an act of defiance or pride.

2. Give Them a Safe Time to Argue
Let your child know that arguing and talking back to you when they’re asked to do something isn’t respectful to you as a parent. Let them know that after an allotted time they will be allowed to respectfully air their concerns to you and bring up their objections. Simply stifling an argumentative child will do nothing but build resentment and distance between you. Give them a chance and a time each day to bring up any questions they might have about things that have happened during the day.

Another great option is to form a family debate club. Have your child pick something to argue (why recycling is important, why cheetahs are the coolest animal, let them pick) and make it a fun family event! Healthy debating is a good skill for anyone to learn.

3. Give Them a Chance to Make an Appeal
When it comes to big decisions and major changes, give your child the chance to appeal a rule. Kids need to feel heard, and they need to know that their opinions matter. Give them a chance to think through things, and when everyone is calm and in a good state of mind, sit down and hear them out. Don’t let them appeal every single thing (“I don’t want to wash the dishes!” “Why do I have to clean up my own mess!”) but give them a say in major decisions.

4. Enforce Consequences for Arguing
If you’re giving your child a time each day to air their arguments respectfully, then any other time arguing comes up during the day, remind them that they can talk to you about it then. If they continue to argue, call it out every time. Initially, they might need some warnings, but then consistently enforce some consequences, like losing out on playing a favorite video game, or going to bed a little early. Remind your kids that you value their opinions, but they need to be respectful to you as a parent and talking back is not showing that they trust you as a parent.

5. Give Positive Feedback for Obedience
Anytime your child listens and obeys right away, make sure to notice it and point it out! If they’re young, give them a sticker or some kind of small token of appreciation. Let your child know you’re paying attention to the good behavior, and not just the bad.

Do you have any experience with an argumentative child? Are you an NT type and have something to add to this discussion? Let me know in the comments!

MBTI, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, and Myers-Briggs are trademarks or registered trademarks of the Myers and Briggs Foundation, Inc., in the United States and other countries.

%d bloggers like this: