Agree to Disagree With Kids

“I didn’t know I was allowed to do that.”

It’s something a lot of educators hear when they invite young thinkers to contest an idea, to debate a particular point of view, or to come up with their own arguments. Unfortunately, many students make it all the way to secondary school, or even college or university, without experiencing what it’s like to do these things. What could prove to be an essential 21st century skill is often overlooked in favour of more technical skills, and what a child thinks is often given precedence of how a child thinks.

Whether it’s in the classroom or at home, encouraging a child to argue may seem a little counter-intuitive (as if a child needs encouragement to argue). Becoming comfortable with it starts with recognizing that there’s a difference between arguing for sport and arguing to test out the validity of ideas. With a little practice and encouragement, even a child can learn to respectfully disagree, and to give reasons to back up her or his viewpoint.

Here’s why you and your child should agree to disagree:

  • It demonstrates to a child that you value their opinion and are willing to hear them out, even if you don’t agree. This, in turn, builds trust and improves communication.
  • It establishes that learning is about more than memorization and repetition. The ability to question and evaluate indicates a deeper understanding of material.
  • It encourages creativity. Allowing for questions leads to thinking outside the box.
  • It benefits just about every subject area, and can have a profoundly positive impact on a child’s personal and social development.
  • It opens up a world of alternate viewpoints. Children learn that there’s almost always more than one way to look at something.

Ready to give it a try with your little thinker? Here’s a place to start!