The recent presidential debate has me wondering what kids are going to learn from all this misbehavior by adults. When they hear grown ups debating so disrespectfully it is hard not to take away the lesson that this is how to disagree. Especially when those grown ups are supposed to be respected leaders setting an example.
So to counter this awful example you can set a better one as a parent. You can model and teach five skills for respectful disagreement:
- Stop and Reflect: When someone says something you disagree with, reflect it back. That is, say it back to them so that they know you heard and understand what they said. This also gives the other person a chance to think more deeply about what they are claiming, because hearing your own thoughts spoken aloud by someone else gives you a chance to consider them more objectively.
- Let the other person finish: This is a basic skill we all should have learned in elementary school, but it is one that didn’t seem to take for so many of us. Listen, wait for the person to finish, and then take a turn.
- Disagree with ideas but respect the person: Ideas are not people. Sometimes we get that mixed up. When we do, we feel insulted when people disagree with us, or confuse our dislike of an idea for dislike of the person who has it.
- Point out agreement too: Disagreeing with someone can feel bad, for them and you. It is always a good idea to spend some time pointing out the things that you agree on. That way you help to manage the discomfort of disagreement and make it easier to disagree respectfully.
- Listen more than talk: Or to put it another way, listen to the person to understand them, not to come up with a better arguement. Give the person time to think aloud, listen carefully, and allow the views to be expressed fully.
If you teach your kid just one or two of these skills then they will be doing better than many of our leaders. They will know how to communicate, and disagree, respectfully.