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.”