Over the past two weeks I’ve shared about why I want my kids to argue, and how it can be done in a healthy, productive manner. Want to know if it’s really worked for us?
My wife and I have used a process called “the appeal” in our home with our kids. We are educating our kids to challenge decisions that we make in their lives using logical, non-emotive reasoning to layout their position. Their goal: change our minds on a given decision. Am I teaching my kids to argue with me? You better believe it.
From time to time, after I make a decision, one of my children may say, “Dad, can I make an appeal about this decision you have made?” At this point, it could go one of two ways:
“No. This is not a decision that is open to an appeal. Thank you for asking appropriately.”
“Yes. Are you prepared to make this appeal right now or do you need a little time?
Denhart Family Example
Three years ago, my daughter (six years old at the time) wanted to try out for the school play. As the leader of our household, having observed other families overloaded with activities during the school year, I have a rather strong aversion to any activities that take our kids away from home (admittedly, this may be somewhat reactionary and may be too strong on my part). I said “no” to her request to try out for the school play. She cried. My wife encouraged her to approach me and make an appeal. My six year old daughter gathered her composure and asked if she could make an appeal. I said yes. I was amazed that without any coaching she was able to lay out a very strong position.
- “Call Mrs. Bantz. Her four daughters have all participated in school plays at Western Hills elementary. She knows what it means to be in a school play. We don’t.” (What she was saying…”Dad, get counsel from someone who’s gone before!!”)
- “I’m the firstborn. You should try this out on me before the other kids ask to be in the school play. If it doesn’t go well with me and this is too much for our family, you’ll know for the future and can say no to Caleb and Moriah to be in school plays.” (What she was saying…”Let me be the guinea pig, dad!”)
- “The school play this year is, “The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe”. This is a Christian play. We know what this is about. This fits with what we believe. We have no idea what next year’s play might be. It might not be something that our family believes in.” (What she was saying…”Dad, this is a one-time shot. Next year could be a play having content with which we philosophically disagree.)
I was deeply impressed. Clearly she had some fantastic reasons. She had reasons that I had not considered. I changed my mind and retracted my initial decision for two reasons. First, her argument was sound and it shed new light on the matter at hand. Second, and far more importantly, I wanted to reinforce, as strongly as I could, that the appeal process works. I am willing to be persuaded. We allowed her to try out for the play, for which she got a small part.
I make appeals quite frequently in my adult life. I have a boss. I want to seek to persuade my boss to see things from a different perspective from time to time. I don’t throw a tantrum, I try not to yell. The times I have succeeded in persuading/moving things in a different direction I have used logic, reason and composure.
Why teach and exercise “the appeal” process with my kids:
- I want to teach a life skill that my kids can use with a future professor, boss or other authority figure.
- I want my children to know they have a brain, they have a voice, and what they think and feel absolutely matters.
- I want them to fight for injustices. Inside her heart, my daughter felt my decision was unjust. I want my kids to learn to fight for change in a controlled, logical and compelling manner that honors God.
- I want to model humility. I want them to see a leader (or dad) who isn’t always right and doesn’t always see things crystal clear. Position should not infer perfection. Authority should not infer absolutism. Leadership should not infer LAW.
Argue ... Respectfully
I’m teaching my kids how to bring forward a respectful appeal and challenge my decisions that affect their lives. I’m teaching them to argue with me… respectfully. The ability to disagree, discuss and dialogue is a foundational – the converse is dysfunctional.
So, can this work for you? Next week I’ll share some final thoughts on teaching my kids to argue.
If you missed the previous blog entries on getting my kids to argue, you can read them here.
If you are eager to learn more about the concept of teaching your kids to argue, with all the content in one place, sign up here for my free ebook “I Want My Kids to Argue.”