“This is so unfair!” Your daughter screams.
Feeling frustrated, you respond, “Life’s not fair, get used to it.”
She runs to her room and slams the door.
Leaving yet another disagreement unresolved. Not to mention, everyone is feeling tense and disconnected.
You encourage your kids to be independent, critical thinkers. You want them to express their thoughts and feelings. But you feel frustrated by their methods: whining, tantruming, yelling, arguing, or using a rude tone of voice can fuel even the calmest parent’s fire.
What you want is a child who is able to Respectfully Disagree.
Teaching Kids to Respectfully Disagree
Unfortunately, having a respectful disagreement is not something that comes naturally to kids. It is a skill that needs to be taught.
- Model: Yep, like most things, respect starts with you. Kids learn by watching and listening to the adults in their life. Challenge yourself to use a calm or neutral tone when disagreeing with your child. Stick to the facts, your feelings or what you’re observing. Skip the name-calling, punishment and yelling.
- Give Permission: Let your children know that it is ok to disagree with siblings, friends, teachers and even parents. Talk about “respectful” and “disrespectful” ways to disagree, and the potential consequences of each.
- Give the Words: Providing your child with a “script” will help him feel empowered to speak his mind in a respectful way. For example, “Here’s what I think…” or “Can I tell you how I feel?” Even a simple, “I disagree.”
- Be Willing to Listen: If your child is speaking respectfully, give them your attention. Hear their perspective and paraphrase it back to make sure you’ve heard it correctly. Resist the urge to interrupt or formulate your response before hearing their opinion.
- Don’t Fix It: Rather than jumping in and solving the problem or giving a punishment, let your child know that you hear their side. Responding with, “It doesn’t seem fair that you have an earlier bedtime.” Might be all that’s needed in the moment.
- Change Your Mind: Sometimes, your child may present a pretty strong case. If you are wrong or if you are willing to be flexible, it’s ok to change your opinion, compromise or give their position some extra consideration.
- Teach Coping Skills: Of course, there will always be situations when you cannot compromise or change your mind. In that case, it’s important that your child has a number of different ways to handle disappointment or disagreement. Practice these skills before your child needs them, so they will be ready when the time comes.
Putting it into Practice
Changing patterns is going to take time. It may not come naturally at first. That is ok! You and your child can to work together to find the “script” and expectations that works best for your family.
Maybe you’re from the “parent is always right” or “children should be seen and not heard” school of thought. If so, I would challenge you to examine how that is working for your relationship with your child.
Conflict between a parent and a child sometimes stem from the child not feeling heard, valued or respected. I realize that you may not feel respected either. Taking steps towards repairing the relationship may be a step in the right direction.
Walking up to the closed door, you knock.
“Hey honey, I’m sorry about my response, I didn’t listen when you said it was unfair. Can we start that conversation over again?”
You may or may not change your mind, but that’s not the point.
The goal is to help your daughter learn how to have a respectful disagreement.
How can I help?
You don’t have to make these changes on your own. Parent Coaching provides individualized support, education and encouragement to help you make positive changes in your family. Please contact me for more information or to schedule a free, no-obligation phone call to see if Parent Coaching can benefit you!