This morning, scrolling through my Facebook feed, a video popped up by my very favorite President of all time…
Robby AKA “Kid President” was adopted from foster care as an infant, and suffers from Osteogenesis Imperfecta, a disease that makes his bones brittle. You’d think after over 70 surgeries, he’d be depressed and bitter, but Kid President is anything but!
His video inspired this conversation about how to help kids (and grown ups) agree to disagree.
There has been a lot of disagreement in the news lately – among sports fans, social media moguls, and…of course, with politics. And much of the disagreement hasn’t been so respectful.
Recently I observed a class of second graders as they happily shared their opinions about a children’s picture book. They were responding to their teacher’s open-ended question about what might have motivated one of the characters in the book.
As they chatted with partners, I heard students say things like, “I’m going to have to respectfully disagree with that because on this page, the author said, . . .” or “I see what you’re saying, and I wonder if . . .”
When the teacher invited the students to share their ideas with the whole group, the children again used respectful terminology to show a remarkably wide variety of opinions: “I want to piggyback on what _____ said,” or “I want to ask _____ a question about what he said because I’m not sure I agree.”
Wow, these were second graders! It was impressive to see children so young using such respectful and articulate language. Would it be nice to hear this kind of language more often in our world! I was especially struck by these students’ ability to cheerfully disagree because it seems to be a skill that many adults never fully develop.
Here are some strategies that Kid President and The Wise Family agree might help:
Model respectful disagreement:
Generally, the ability to “agree to disagree” comes from reading scenes in books or watching characters on television—which mainly teaches kids how to state their case and then dramatically exit a room. Think about the role models on TV right now, and what they are teaching kids about disagreements. Think about how you, as a parent, model disagreements and challenge yourself to use calm or neutral language when you disagree with others. Stick to the facts, your feelings, and what you are observing.
Give permission by teaching language:
Often kids in our office tell us that they’ve been instructed to keep their opinions to themselves so they can “make friends” or “not ruffle feathers.” This is the opposite of a positive approach. Teach your children that it is okay to disagree in “respectful” ways, and give them a script on how to do it. Some helpful phrases are, “Here’s what I think…” or “I want to understand your point of view, and share mine.”
Teach problem solving and flexibility:
We are all quick to jump in with a solution to a problem or to give a punishment, particularly when we are emotionally charged. Teach your child that you are open to listening to alternatives, and show your child that you empathize (not sympathize) with his frustration. Saying things like, “I hadn’t considered that, and I will give it some thought,” and “I know that it doesn’t feel fair that you have to have an earlier bedtime,” can help your child feel heard and his feelings acknowledged.
We want to teach our kids the skills they will need throughout life to work side by side with others, and to be able to share their thoughts, feelings and opinions without fear of judgment!
To quote Kid President, “You don’t have to see eye-to-eye with someone, to work shoulder-to-shoulder!” #wisewords
Be Wise! For more parenting advice or to schedule family counseling services or consulting please visit: www.thewisefamily.com
Amy Fortney Parks, PhD-R, LPC was featured in Fairfax Woman! See it HERE.
Until next week, Be Wise!
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