By Paula Bowlby, Associate Early Childhood Pastor
Woodland Hills Church
“I don’t agree with you.” “I feel differently than you do.” “Have you thought of it like this?” Sometimes it is hard to say those words. Other times, it is very easy to say those words. The question I have been asking myself, especially when I am on social media is: how do we model to our children respectful disagreements. Respect is the key word for me.
How do we, individuals who are trying to the best of our ability to be Kingdom Followers, have our own opinions and have healthy discussions about the opinions without tearing the other person down? Do we always have to be right? What is our motivation in the discussion? Most importantly, what are we modeling to our children when we speak, in our actions and in our body language? Little eyes seem to see and hear everything. As a parent, as a volunteer or as a family member, you are being watched. How do you handle the responsibility? How do we model?
I did a little research to see what the experts were saying on this topic. I found some good reminders for myself, what I would like to model. Here is a small portion of what I found:
- Model – challenge yourself to use a calm and neutral tone. Stick to facts, your feelings or what you have observed; no name calling.
- Permission- our kids need to know that they don’t always need to agree with others but do need to show the love of Jesus in how they disagree, which, again, means no name calling. Help them see the value of teaching in love while doing nothing out of selfish ambition.
- Give the words – help your child work out with appropriate words for disagreements. You can even do this with younger children by teaching them to say that made me sad. This helps them identify how they are feeling, teaching them to identify early what is causing an Older kids can be encouraged to use phrases like, “This is what I think,” or “Can I tell you how I feel?” as great starters. You modeling this will help them even more.
- Be willing to listen – if your child is making a good faith effort to respectfully disagree, listen. Help them build the skill.
- Don’t fix it – let your child know you heard them with your words but don’t simply step in and take care of things yourself. Help him/her work out the situation using love and respect.
- Teach and practice – help your kids see that you will not always agree and that is okay. Teach them that those who see the world differently have value and are loved by God.
- Help your child learn that his/her identity comes from God, not others. This lesson is good for us all but is sometimes very hard to remember.
As we move into 2017, let’s love and model love. Let’s respect and respectfully disagree. Let’s let Jesus shine through us and be different.