Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Lie--Kids Shouldn't Argue

When I was growing up, I argued--a lot. I argued with my brother, mom, dad, teachers, relative and anyone else that would argue. Pretty much every time, an authority figure would tell me not to argue. Parents would tell me "because I said so" when I asked why I should do something. Teachers and other authority figures would see an argument as a challenge to their authority and would quash it immediately. What I learned from this was that I was less than those people--even if I had a valid argument and was able to articulate it.

I believe this to have been a disservice. Now, remember, I am a parent, I was a teacher and I have said "because I said so". On more occasions though, I have listened to the argument and made a decision stand or be reversed after the argument was presented. I believe this is a valuable skill to be taught. I believe it is important for kids to learn how to properly disagree and discuss the differences (argue if you will) in a safe environment. I also believe that they learn submission to authority in enough places.

Let me qualify this point of view with a few caveats--some things are not up for discussion. Some things are not important enough to discuss and some are too important to be lenient. If my son wanted to play in the interstate, I would say no and it would not matter how convincing of an argument he presented, the answer would stay no.

Some things, however, are ripe for discussion. If he wants to do something else and can present a good reason, I will, even at 5 years old let him have his way. I am objective enough to know that some of the things I tell him to do are completely arbitrary. There is no good reason for him to do it this way or that. If he wants to do it a different way, fine. I think this lets him develop his logic and reasoning skills and helps him develop his communication skills.

I was the same way in my classroom. I would give parameters for a project. If a student came and said they would rather do it a different way and could give me a good reason why, I was flexible. It created a bit more work but it helped them learn the concept and learn to communicate with authority well. It also gave me a great opportunity to teach the soft skill of debate (argument). I would even help them argue with me sometimes.

That may sound weird but it is invaluable to the developing mind. Teach them how to argue. Teach them and give them opportunities to think on their own, form a plan, present the plan and try to be persuasive. Teach them how to resolve conflict. All the while, coaching them on being respectful, being open minded and being creative. Too many kids give up at the first "no". Still other kids don't give up, they get beligerent or equate a "no" with a rejection of THEM.

Bottom line, kids should be given the opportunity to argue with you. Help them decide which topics are open for discussion and which ones are not. Let them formulate an argument and even let them win sometimes. If everyone did this, I think we would have a much less frustrated, depressed, unable to deal with rejection, unable to cope with "no" society.

Who wants to argue with me?

1 comment:

Doug said...

Why would I argue with you when you hit the nail on the head?

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