Teaching your child to disagree respectfully: Language for disagreeing

Teach your child language to disagree with others in ways that are respectful and considerate.

People talking

Respect is a two-way street, and everyone has a right to an opinion. Teach your child to value the perspective of other people because often they will have an idea or viewpoint that we would have never thought of on our own. They can challenge our beliefs, make us think about problems in different ways and encourage us to be thoughtful about our own opinions.

Michigan State University Extension has some tips for children to engage in active listening and share their opinions in ways that are respectful and considerate.

Communicate that you are listening. Say things like:

  • “I hear you, and…..”
  • “I’m interested to hear more about why you feel that way.”
  • “Tell me more about that.”

Clarify and ask questions. Say things like:

  • “It seems like what you’re saying is…”
  • “I’m having a hard time understanding your point, could you explain it to me?”
  • “What do you mean by that?”

Share your opinion. Say things like:

  • “I never thought about it that way.”
  • “I agree/disagree because…”
  • “Have you thought about the situation like this..?”

Keep the conversation going. Say things like:

  • “Would you tell me more about that?”
  • “I’m really interested to hear what you think about that.”
  • “Let’s get some more information about this and talk again.”

When you invest the time to help your child learn and practice skills for respectful communication and disagreeing respectfully, you are preparing them for the real world. As adults, they will be able to disagree with their partner, friend, neighbor or boss without alienating them or damaging relationships. They will have the skills to express their opinions thoughtfully and clearly and they will understand and value the perspectives of other people.

For more articles on child development, academic success, parenting and life skill development, please visit the Michigan State University Extension website.

To learn about the positive impact children and families experience due to MSU Extension programs, read our 2017 impact report. Additional impact reports, highlighting even more ways Michigan 4-H and MSU Extension positively impacted individuals and communities in 2017, can be downloaded from the Michigan 4-H website.

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