Practicing how to respectfully disagree will actually deepen your relationship with your teen.
“I just can’t with you!!”
If you have a teen, you may have heard this coming out of their mouth or yours.
I’m not gonna lie, this is a tough time to have teenagers (but when isn’t it?). Between learning Algebra 2 again, the racial tensions as well as political unrest, we are not going to see eye to eye with our teenagers.
Maybe you and your teen agree on everything and life is perfect. This may not be for you.
For the rest of us, we are trying to keep the peace while teaching our kids what to think. This is the problem though, isn’t it? We may not want to admit that is what we are doing, but often we are trying to teach them WHAT to think, when we should be teaching them HOW to think.
I have four children (and the last one just turned 17), so I feel you.
Here are 5 tips from what I have learned about talking to my kids about politics. I've paid some "dumb tax" over the years, and hopefully you can benefit from my mistakes.
1. Allow your kids to speak freely and speak their mind.
Make sure you give your teen permission to say whatever they want. Prepare yourself that they might just want to shock you. Start with the assumption that they don’t agree with you, and that’s okay.
Make sure you approach the conversation with a heart to learn, not just make your point.
2. Ask good questions - seek to learn
Now, I know...we really want to make our point and show them the wisdom we have gained from hard knocks in life. However, the best way to have influence is by listening. And we can show that we are listening by asking good questions.
- Ask why they believe that, or why they support that.
- Ask where they heard that or read that.
- Encourage them to research the issue or the candidates for themselves. (This is something you could do together.)
3. Don’t poke the bear
Most of the time, we want to talk more than we listen.
Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. - James 1:19 NLT
Trust me, I get it. You sometimes wonder what planet these beings that now reside in your house came from. You want to lob logic bombs at them until they surrender. (By the way, I found this to be ineffective.)
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. - Ephesians 6:4a NLT
(Moms, he’s talking to you as well.)
Treat your teens the way you want them to treat you. You are training them how to think, and how to disagree with others and still respect them. What you do here will have long lasting effects.
4. Encourage them to vote when they are old enough
I will never forget watching Suffragette and thinking how much I owed to those women who fought and suffered for my right to vote. I think about our military men and women who gave their lives over the years for my right to vote. I think about those currently serving as well. Have these conversations with your kids. Let them know what a privilege it is to vote, and lead by example by voting yourself!
5. Let them know that it’s okay to disagree
It may sound crazy, and at times it's very difficult to do. But, it’s actually good and healthy for your kids to disagree with you. Practicing how to respectfully disagree will actually deepen your relationship with your teen.
Depending on our personality, we tend to either avoid all disagreements and confrontations or we want to fight about everything. Both will damage your relationship with your teen.
It is important to teach our kids how to disagree with others in a respectful way and maintain the relationship. If your teen doesn’t want to be respectful or use logic when having discussions, I suggest you introduce them to the world of debate. The National Speech and Debate Association (www.speechanddebate.org) is a great resource to discover types of debate and competitions. If your school has a debate team, you may want to recommend it.
How Do I Start?
No matter your opinion or theirs, keep the focus on open dialogue, not changing their mind. Don’t repeat unsubstantiated sound bites and rhetoric, actually investigate with your teen and teach them how to seek the truth. In a world of social media and sound bites, you need to lead by example here.
Here are some more resources you could use to talk to your teens about politics: