Apr 182012


I still remember the first time I presented an argument and won. I must have been about six. We were getting ready for church and I wanted to wear my fancy shoes. But I wanted to wear them with the straps behind my heel instead of over my foot. I thought it was much more sophisticated that way.

When I asked my dad, he slid the straps back and had me walk in them. I did fine. Then he told me to run in them. They flew off. He concluded that my feet were still too small. I countered (in a respectful tone) with, “But I’m not allowed to run in church anyway, Dad.” He smiled, slid the straps back to the heel and said, “You’re right. Go for it.” 

I beamed that day heading into church. Not only did I feel like a big girl because of how I was wearing my shoes but because my argument had been validated.

My dad doesn’t remember any of this. To him, it was one of thousands of interactions; to me it was the realization that presenting an argument could change things. That respectful disagreement could take me places.

This small but significant exchange could never have occurred if I’d grown up in a household where disagreement with adults was forbidden. Where parental authority was never to be questioned. And yet, so many parents seem scared to let their kids disagree with them

I want my daughter to know that disagreement does not equal disrespect. I want to teach her how to disagree respectfully. How to argue her point.

And I’m looking forward to the day her disagreement with me changes my mind. I can’t wait to smile and say, “You’re right.”


Photo Credit

 Posted by at 5:39 am

  6 Responses to “Letting Our Kids Disagree”

  1. "Disagreement does not equal disrespect". I love this and I say this all the time. It's not just with children either, it can happen with anyone no matter the age of the individuals.
    As a 24-year old, I've experienced this with fellow adults who get terribly offended and claim a lack of respect when I disagree with them. Sometimes it's hard not to react back at them as strongly as they react toward me.

  2. I have found this with other adults as well. It can be discouraging but it strengthens my resolve to teach my daughter how to respectfully disagree. I suppose as she gets older I'll also have to teach her how to deal with people who believe disagreement implies disrespect.

  3. Great insight. I too grew up in a household where it was perfectly fine to counter arguments and present a different point of view. My mom though tells me that when she was growing up, children were meant to be seen, not heard. They were never expected to voice opinions and instead only obey adults.

    I kind of get where my grandparents were coming from; after all, you want your youth to respect elders and authority. But first, respect usually has to be mutual. If kids aren't respected enough to be heard, then that silence isn't respect, it's just a facade, perhaps of fear.

    And secondly, I want my toddler to know that while there is such as a thing as authority, that doesn't always guarantee that they're right.

  4. I like your point about mutual respect versus fearing authority. Well said.

  5. Loved this. My husband grew up in an environment that considered any type of disagreement to be a form of disrespect. It has lingered even now as an adult with his own family. I think patterns that are set when children are young won't just automatically change once you have adult children. Hence, it is so important to teach this and cultivate this type of relationship from the start. Great post, Steph.

  6. Thanks Johanna. It's so true that the patterns we establish now are extremely likely to follow us and our kids into their adulthood. Thanks for adding that perspective.

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