Disagreements are merely differences of opinion. Since disagreements are unavoidable, the real key to disagreeing is doing it in a way that respects the parties involved. Kids need to learn how to respectfully disagree, and parents have an opportunity to teach this lesson.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Listen to your child calmly and carefully without interrupting. You can then reflect back to your child the main points you think you heard, clearing up any misunderstandings on the spot.
  • Express your interest and understanding in how your child feels. You can ask for examples or ask him to tell you more about the issue. You can always let your child know that you understand why he feels whatever he is feeling, even if your child doesn’t get his way in the end.
  • Use “I” statements and “I feel” statements rather than “you” statements. Saying “I feel that the family meals are incomplete when you don’t join us” invites more discussion. Saying “You never join us for mealtime anymore” sounds accusatory and shuts off communication.
  • Support your point of view and your feelings with facts. If you have a teen who likes to talk on her cell phone while driving, you might explain that she is not allowed to use the cell phone while driving because it is distracting and dangerous. That is a fact. You can explain your concern, care, and worry based on this fact as well.
  • Stick to the present situation. Reign in the impulse to digress to other issues and concentrate only on the issue of the moment.
  • Show your child that you want to understand and communicate about the issue rather than “win” with your point of view. Both sides of a disagreement should at least feel “heard,” understood, and respected. There will be times that you need to agree to disagree.
  • If it is possible, compromise or negotiate. Compromise is often possible over issues like time spent playing video games, use of a cell phone, or the morning routine.

Disagreeing with respect is something learned, and it takes practice. So when disagreements crop up, you have an opportunity to teach and practice with your child. Disagreeing respectfully is a learned skill that will serve your child well throughout his or her life.

More to consider:

Disrespect . . .

Often, children who are disrespectful have not learned how to disagree with respect.