Teaching kids to argue intelligently will not just prepare them better for the bigger world when they're an adult, it can help them resist peer pressure as teens, concludes a new study.

The study, from researchers at the University of Virginia, found that teens who use calm reasoning in arguments with their mother are more likely to resist peer pressure to use drugs or alcohol.

Jennifer Kolari, a Child and Family Therapist and the author of "You're Ruining My Life! (But Not Really) Surviving the Teenage Years with Connected Parenting," wasn't involved in the study, but says the findings don't surprise her.

"I think it makes perfect sense," she told CTV's Canada AM Friday.

The study tracked 150 racially and socioeconomically diverse teens and their parents. The teens were studied at ages 13, 15, and 16 and asked about substance use, interactions with their mothers, social skills, and close friendships.

Researchers looked at the youths' own reports, as well as information from parents and peers.

The researchers also videotaped the teens and their parents discussing a disagreement, and then observed and coded the information to understand what was happening.

They found that teens who could hold their own in family discussions were better at standing up to peer influences to use drugs or alcohol.

Kolari says the findings make good sense because kids who can argue effectively learn to also talk themselves out of sticky situations with peers. But kids who have been bullied and intimidated by their parents tend to have trouble finding their way.

"Yelling at them and seeing their arguing with you as not listening to you, or not respecting your authority, is so restrictive," says Kolari.

"And it teaches them to listen to everybody. But if they're not afraid to express their opinion they're going to be more likely to resist their peers because they know the things that don't feel right for them."

Kolari says there's a difference between parents and teens fighting and arguing.

"A healthy argument is great. It teaches kids fantastic skills," she says.

"I think you need to give your kids the ability to defend themselves, to make their point, to learn how to listen, to stay calm – those are wonderful skills in the real world and they really help kids resist peers."

The researchers found that kids who had learned to argue well were those who tried to persuade their mothers with reasoned arguments, rather than with pressure, whining, or insults. These kids were able to have calm arguments with their mothers about such topics as grades, money, household rules, and friends.

Kolari says the key to teaching your child to argue well is to be a reasonable arguer yourself.

"As a parent, you have to model that calm behaviour that's necessary to have a healthy argument," she says.

"Because otherwise it just disintegrates into, ‘You're ruining my life. I hate you. You don't understand.' And then for the parents, it's often, ‘Fine! If you think it's better at the neighbours, they go live there.' So there's this breakdown in communication and that doesn't get you anywhere."

Kolari says the biggest tip she can offer parents of teens is to stay calm during discussions and arguments, to respond to your children rather than to react.

"Something really amazing happens, when you attune to your teenager: reward chemical release in your brain. So opiates and endorphins and a very powerful hormone oxytocin release, which is an anti-stress agent. It calms the person right down. So you're chemically creating a different situation when you talk to your teens in a calm way," she says.