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Am I teaching my children to be argumentative?

Am I taking the wrong approach to disagreement? Let’s face it, even the word itself has negative connotations. Awkward, argumentative, feisty, disagreeable, obtuse. We discourage our children from disagreeing. Don’t answer back, do as you’re told. Don’t argue with me. And yet, I want my children to disagree. In fact, I believe it is one of the most important skills they can learn.

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Should children be taught to disagree?

I know, it’s a strange concept. After all, children do nothing but disagree. They never want to do as they’re told and the whining – oh, don’t even talk to me about the whining. But here’s the thing – they have their own opinions. Every single day throughout their lives, they will be faced with things they don’t agree with. It’s how they deal with those things that is important.

Sometimes, they will need to stand up and shout. They’ll see both physical and psychological bullying. They’ll see things that are illegal, dishonest or downright wrong. And in these cases it doesn’t really matter how they disagree, as long as they make themselves heard. But there will also be times when they might put themselves at risk by voicing their disagreement. They should be able to identify situations where they need help to disagree.

Children also need to learn to voice their opinions in more mundane situations. An argument between peers or a difference of opinion within the family. Being able to express themselves in such circumstances will develop the skills they need in later life. They’ll be able to say no to taking on too much work and speak up politely when they don’t like the way things are done. And people will listen to them, because they do it in the right way.

Am I getting it all wrong?

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post with words I want my daughters to hear when they start to doubt themselves. The post included a section about the fact that disagreement is good. But I didn’t think much more about it, until someone contacted me on social media to say that this was something they’d never considered.

And it made me wonder whether I am in the minority. Do you encourage your children to speak up when they don’t like something? Do you listen to their opinion and make sure they know that you’re not always right?

Both of my children are quite outspoken. Libby can be rather bossy when she thinks somebody isn’t complying with the rules. And as for Lia? Well, 99% of the time she’s laid back, placid and easy to get on with. But on the odd occasion somebody upsets her, she can be a bit of a nightmare. Please feel free to tell me what a dreadful mum I am for laughing about it, but my husband upset her the other day and she landed the perfect punch. Right where it hurts.

So is this my fault? Don’t get me wrong, I am strict with them. They don’t get away with much, but I do want them to disagree with me. And I want them to disagree with other people too, because that’s real life. I also believe that knowing their opinion is as valid as anybody else’s is a big part of developing respect for themselves and others.



  1. June 19, 2017 / 3:53 pm

    This is tough one! You want your kids to question certain things but not want them to just disagree with everything and let’s face it – that’s annoying and we all have that friend who does that, ha! 😉 My two boys are both big now but when they were younger, I’d pick and choice the times I’d argue with them. I think we all want our kids to grow up with strong ideas and not to take rubbish from people. Like I say, I think it’s a tough one. Good luck!

  2. June 20, 2017 / 10:24 am

    I think if they’re given the opportunity to give their opinions that’s a good thing, but they also need to learn that they won’t always get their own way and they need to listen to others too. And that’s where the explanations and helping them learn how to speak their mind and have healthy discussion comes in.

  3. June 20, 2017 / 2:43 pm

    I think that as long as they are not being rude and are putting their opinion across in the right way, then it’s absolutely ok to disagree with someone. It’s all about teaching them that sometimes there isn’t a right or wrong, and that is ok. But that sometimes their way is right, and it’s down to the adult to help them understand the difference x

  4. June 21, 2017 / 7:31 pm

    I guess I do and hadn’t even thought about it. They are confident enough to disagree within our household and let themselves be heard – not so sure about outside though.

    • July 10, 2017 / 11:13 pm

      That’s good, I’m sure they’ll have the confidence outside of the house eventually if they have been supported with it at home.

  5. June 27, 2017 / 5:12 am

    Hi Nat, I don’t think you are getting it wrong at all. Having children made me really think about how I wanted them to be. I too wanted children who turned into adults who aren’t afraid to speak out, but also know how to do it without creating a scene. And the only way that is done is by learning as a child. I’m not sure if it’s the dynamics of our family but me and the children really don’t fall out, even when they were younger, I had a take no crap policy, but I always made time to sit, listen and talk and I think it paid off. Now they are they are older, of course, they disagree with what I say, but they either take heed or learn the hard way (or I learn that I was wrong), but they never, ever throw a hissy fit or shout at me.

    Children must learn that parents aren’t always right, in fact, they probably work that one out on their own, but when a parent keeps saying “I am right, you must listen”, they begin to doubt themselves.

    Squabbling and sorting things between themselves is a must, but they must learn to do it respectfully. I think teaching children to think for themselves and to be tolerant of other peoples decisions is far more important, learning to agree to disagree takes practice, but when started young they master it quite well by the time they are adults.

    Know you are not mad, you are doing a good job!


    • July 10, 2017 / 11:09 pm

      Thank you Debbie, that’s great to hear. I do hope I’m getting it right.

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