How to Teach Kids to Disagree Respectfully
Disagreement is a normal part of life and it's important your child learns how to disagree respectfully. Teach your child respect and tolerance by encouraging listening, teaching basic social interacting, and addressing rude behaviors. When conflicts arise, have children talk things out in a calm, respectful manner. Encourage your child to behave in day-to-day settings by modeling positive behaviors yourself.
Discussing Respect and Tolerance
Teach basic social interaction.If you want your children to learn to disagree respectfully, start with basic social interaction. If children know how to respect others in normal conversation, they can carry that respect into disagreements.
- Talk about simple manners. Teach your child how to say things like "Please" and "Thank you." Praise your child for remembering their manners.
- Explain to your children empathy and manners help others feel respected. Ask them to put themselves in another person's shoes. For example, "Don't you feel better when someone says 'please' when they want you to do something?"
- Let your kids know that they can't let their emotions control their actions. Say something like, "It's always okay to feel mad or frustrated, but you need to treat people with respect even if you're upset." Encourage children to do things like take deep breaths and count backwards from 10 when they get mad instead of lashing out at others.
Give your children permission to disagree.Children often get hostile during disagreements because they don't know how to disagree. Let your child know it's okay to disagree with others in a respectful manner. This will help your child have a script to fall back on when a disagreement arises.
- Let your child know how they can disagree. Teach them to adopt phrases like, "Can I explain my feelings?" or "Here's how I feel about that." You can also let your child know they can politely say, "I disagree."
- Model these kinds of phrases when disagreeing with those around you. Children learn a lot by observing adult behavior.
Encourage your child to listen.Disagreement is inevitable and your child will need to learn to listen and compromise. Let your child know that, while their perspective is important, they should also be willing to listen to the perspectives of others.
- Teach your child to abandon distractions when someone is talking. Have your child put down their video games when you're talking to them, for example, and encourage them to make eye contact. Explain that this helps the other person know they are important and being heard.
- You can try role playing activities to teach your child listening skills. It can be particularly fun for a child to learn what not to do. For example, you can talk and encourage your child to play the role of the interrupter. Afterwards, ask questions like, "Can you see how interrupting doesn't feel good?"
Discuss rude behavior after it occurs.If your child was rude, it's important to let them know. However, if a child is very upset and acting out, this is not always the best moment to intervene. Wait until your child is calm and then explain why the behavior was disrespectful.
- For example, if your child throws a tantrum in the grocery store when you tell them they cannot get a toy, wait until you're home and your child is relaxed to address the issue. Say something like, "I know you were upset back there, but you told me by yelling and kicking. Can you tell me how you were feeling using your words?"
- Follow up by saying, "Next time, can you tell me using your words instead of yelling or kicking?"
Helping with Conflict Management
Remind children disagreements are not personal.Children often personalize disagreements. If someone does not agree with them, they may feel the person is picking on them or does not like them. Make sure to explain to children they do not need to take disagreements as personal slights.
- Tell children that, when they disagree, they're mad at an idea, concept, or opinion. They are not mad at the person.
- Remind your child everyone is entitled to their own opinion. If someone disagrees with them, it's probably not personal. They just have a different take on a given situation or issue.
Have children use "I" statements during disagreements."I" statements are statements phrased in a way to avoid blame and judgment. Teaching your children to talk using "I" statements can help them disagree in a respectful fashion. "I" statements have three parts. They begin with, "I feel..." after which you immediately state your feelings. From there, describe the behavior that inspired those feelings. Then you say why you feel the way you do.Finally, ask them to propose a solution or compromise.
Help your child stay calm.Children often have difficulty regulating their emotions. When a disagreement surfaces, help your child stay calm during the conflict. Children may get angry or feel passionate. During these times, encourage your children to remember to stay calm.
- Teach your child to recognize messages from their body that indicate they might be getting frustrated. Do they start clenching their fists or does their face feel hot when they get frustrated? Helping your child identify these signals means they can use calming techniques before they lose control.
- Help your children learn techniques to stay calm. Have your child, for example, take a series of deep breaths, count to 10, or make an effort to relax their bodies. You can also remind a child to take a break from a discussion if they're getting worked up. For example, say something like, "You seem to be getting upset. Would you like to talk about this later?"
- Teach your child they sometimes have to be a bigger person. If a friend or family member is yelling or disrespecting them, tell your child to walk away instead of getting mad in return.
Have your child listen.Make sure your child knows to listen if they're having a disagreement with another person. Tell your child that listening can help them understand another person's point of view, allowing them to resolve a conflict.
Encourage your child to make amends after conflicts occur.If your child has a conflict with a friend, family member, or sibling, encourage them to make up afterwards. Being willing to apologize and move forward is key to respectful disagreements.
- Ask questions like, "What do you think would make your brother feel better about your fight?" Encourage children to explore options like apologizing or doing something nice for the other person.
Encouraging Positive Day-to-Day Behaviors
Model good behavior.Remember, your child pays attention to what you're doing. If you show respect when disagreeing with others, your child will follow your example.
- Always be respectful when disagreeing with your spouse, friends, or family members. Remember to do things like use "I" statements and allow the other person to talk.
Be willing to listen to your child.You need to show your child they can disagree with you respectfully as well. If your child is upset about one of your rules or regulations, allow the child to voice their objections in a respectful manner.
- Do not interrupt your child when they're speaking. Acknowledge what they've said after they're done talking.
- Being the parent, you cannot always let your child have their way if you disagree. However, you should always show them you're taking their perspective into account. For example, "I understand you want to stay up a little later, but I think it's important you get enough sleep for your health."
Address rudeness as it occurs.Minor disrespect and rudeness should be addressed in the moment. You want to occasionally remind your child how to be respectful of others. For example, say something like, "That's not how we talk to other people" if your child is aggressively arguing with a sibling or friend.
Praise your child for positive behavior.Children need to know when they've done something right. If your child shows respect to someone, tell them so. For example, "I appreciate how you agreed to let John play his guitar after you finished studying. It's good that you listened to his point of view even though you were frustrated with him."
- Intense emotions can be difficult for children to understand and manage. While they are learning these behaviors, it might be best to remove the child from others if it appears that they are close to losing control.
- Keep your child's age and mental capacity in mind when you work with them on interrupting. Keep your language and concepts simple, especially for young children.
Video: 5 Ways to Respectfully Disagree - How to Disagree politely
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