After months and months of campaigning it looks as though we have two political nominees to be the next president of the United States. I read the other day that this election cycle is expected to get really nasty. As if it’s been so civil up to this point.
So the question becomes how do we teach children to disagree in a respectful way when they have no role models, at least no public role models, to show them how?
Our kids need to be taught how to disagree. It happens. I can’t think of a single person with whom I always agree. And it’s only right that we disagree. We have our own viewpoints. Our own lives. Our own experiences that feed into our beliefs. And since no one else has experienced the world exactly as we have, no one else is going to share our exact view of that world.
Every day I see people I know – friends, even – sharing disrespectful comments and memes on social media directed at people who disagree with them. You’re a democrat? You must be an idiot. You support gun rights? You must be ignorant. You support Trump/Hillary/Bernie/Santa Claus? You’re an asshole and we can’t be friends anymore.
Practice what you preach. Kids are the best mirror in the world. The simply reflect what they see around them. If you want them to handle disagreements respectfully, you have to show them what that looks like. Don’t name call, blow up at little things, or be generally belligerent.
Teach empathy. Kids are not naturally empathetic. They are incredibly self-centered, and have to be taught empathy. Point out to them when their actions make others happy. Ask them how they feel in certain situations. Help them start to put themselves in other peoples’ shoes.
Agree to disagree. Somehow or other we’ve lost the ability to tolerate the opinions of others. We assume that, if they don’t agree with us, they must not understand… so we continue to argue about it. We assume that if they don’t see the things the same way we do, they must be stupid, or at least willfully ignorant. Instead, let’s teach our kids to agree to disagree.
Find teachable moments. Disagreements can pop up at any time, and they can all be a learning experience. If you see your child in the middle of a disagreement, help them handle it in a meaningful way. The same can be said when you spot people disagreeing.
Tune it out. The tv is filled with angry voices these days. There are people shouting over each other, at each other, and around each other. And if you want to watch it, that’s fine. However, kids follow the example of everything they see, not just the good things. Turn it off and tune it out while the kids are around.
As life gets less civil, it’s more important than ever that we help our kids understand how to be respectful, even when disagreeing.