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Teaching Kids to Argue

    children arguing with parents

    Do you feel like throwing your hands up in the air sometimes when your kids fight with just about everybody. There is a simple solution. Teach them how to argue. What? Seems like a recipe for disaster. Not quite the course of discourse you would want but it is a remedy in making kids better individuals as a whole. Thank You for Arguing: What Aristotle, Lincoln, and Homer Simpson Can Teach Us About the Art of Persuasion is a helpful book written by Jay Heinrichs.

    Aristotle’s Guide to Dinner Table Discourse

    1. Argue to teach decision-making. When you argue the various sides of an issue with your kids (“Beach or mountains this summer?”), they are learning to present different options (“Both!”) and then decide which choice to follow.

    2. Focus on the future. Arguments about the past (“Who made the mess with the toys?”) or the present (“Good children don’t leave messes.”) are far less productive than focusing on what to do or believe: “What’s a good way to make sure that toys get cleaned up?”

    3. Call “fouls.” Anything that impedes debate counts as a foul: Shouting, storming out of the room, or recalling past family atrocities should instantly make you choose the opposite side.

    4. Reward the right emotions. Respond to screaming and anger by not responding, except to say, “Oh, come on. You can do better than that.”

    5. Let kids win sometimes. When they present a good argument, there’s no better teaching method than rewarding them. My over-reliance on the slow cooker, for instance, made my son beg for “dry” food. “Even the cat’s meals,” he said, “aren’t all wet.” Good point. I served hamburgers next. Very dry hamburgers.