A recent Harvard Business Review article entitled “Why We Should Be Disagreeing More at Work” by Amy Gallo received 3500 + likes on LinkedIn and generated 1400 comments. The focus of the article and the remarks center around the value of diverse opinions to stimulate learning and innovation.
Wouldn’t you like your child to become a professional who contributes to progress and creativity in his or her workplace?!
Reality Check – Disagreement in “Real Life”
Here is what happens in many homes when kids disagree. (And even at work too. Replace the word “parent” with “boss”)
Many parents fear chaos. Mutiny. To be avoided at all cost.
And many parents respond with control.
Control anger and emotions. Control kids’ behaviors. Control oneself.
Yet underneath we feel out of control…and under increased pressure, we lose our temper. We lose control.
Benefits of Disagreement
Gallo acknowledges similar tendencies in many workplaces and challenges managers to allow open communication, even disagreements, as they benefit the workplace through
- Better solutions
- Improved relationships
- More sense of belonging
- Greater happiness
Parents, wouldn’t YOU like a home with smarter solutions, stronger relationships, sense of belonging, and happiness? Of course!
An Every Day Example
Instead of a morning rush out the door with stress for everyone, your family morning routine became smooth and joyful THANKS to the challenges your child had in getting ready.
Before parent and child disagreed over the morning routine. Mom wanted to get out fast. Child dragged his feet. The previous “solution” had been a nagging parent…which is no fun for anyone.
To open up communication regarding this disagreement, the family brainstormed ways to organize mornings more effectively. The children came up with a wacky solution that they love and you, the parent, would not have imagined: “We want a fun wake-up song. Can you sing “Happy Day” to the tune of “Happy Birthday” to us every morning?!”
And it works! Now, it’s a delight to leave home for school on time AND with a smile.
The children feel so proud to have devised this new plan; they know their ideas are heard and valued. Home is a happier place…thanks to disagreement!
How to Make Disagreement Positive?
1. Start with…YOU
What is YOUR attitude?
Many parents consider disagreement to be a failure.
Let’s re-examine that.
Do you REALLY want your children to think exactly like you? How will they be able to grow into positive contributors to society in an ever-changing environment?
Try re-framing. CONGRATULATIONS! Respectful disagreement means you have taught your child to think for himself!
Avoid Taking Disagreement Personally
Children are growing their roots and pushing boundaries. It’s an essential part of their growing job.
Besides, there is something to learn from the children’s perspective. Physically and literally they view the world from another angle.
What does your kitchen look like to a three-year-old who cannot reach the top of the counter? She sees the loooong stretch of countertop and a glimpse of the sky when looking out the window. You see the garden.
In the same way, you and your child will have differing views on sharing of toys, cleanliness of room, sex drugs and rock ‘n roll….
It is normal that different folk have a different perspective. In the working world, this is the concept of collaboration with diversity.
YOU have been uniquely selected to teach your child how to thrive with diversity!
Good news & bad news. It’s a tremendous privilege AND you get to be the guinee pig as your children learn from their mistakes.
2. Connect (or re-connect) with THE OTHER
Seek the Beliefs behind the Disagreement
According to Psychiatrist Dr. Alfred Adler, every person has beliefs about himself, other people, and the world. Some of these beliefs may be beneficial while others may be harmful and/or erroneous.
Beliefs about Oneself
“I matter, no matter what.” ‘(Beneficial belief)
“I am only valuable when I do not make mistakes. When I fail, I am worthless.” (Belief of conditional value)
Beliefs about People
“________ (name any religion or political party) are fanatics.” (Belief of superiority)
“Parents want to control me.” (Non-collaborative belief)
“Mom/Dad says ‘No’ but does not mean it.” (Manipulative belief)
Beliefs about the World
“The world is a safe place.”
“There is no such thing as win-win. The strongest gets his way.”
A child who believes his parents want to control him will act differently from one who believes that home is a safe place.
For many of us, adults and children, these beliefs rest in our subconscious. So how to identify them?
Our emotions reveal our beliefs. Our beliefs determine our actions.
One Family’s Story
“We had just given our son his first portable phone and had clearly reviewed the rules with him, the first of which was ‘When parents call, you answer.’
On several occasions our son would not return home directly after school and nor answer his phone.
On one evening I welcomed him back and asked to speak one-on-one.
Parent: “Hi sweetheart. Did you know that your behavior talks?”
Child: “NO. I speak with my words. Deuh…” Instead of getting distracted by his disrespect, I pursued.
P: “Yes. Your actions talk. What do you think a tardy return with no response on your phone is saying?”
C: “Dunno. You tell me.”
P: “Think, darling. You’re smart.” Said kindly, yet seriously. My son realized I expected an answer.
I probed, “What does it say about the importance of your time with regard the to value of my time?”
C: “Well, I guess that my time is more important than yours.”
P: “Is that true? How would you feel if someone treated your time as less valuable?”
C: “Well, I’d be annoyed, and I guess it’s not true that my time is more important,” my son admits with a sheepish grin.
We even enjoyed (!) the ensuing conversation about limits since we had connected and corrected some hurtful beliefs.”
Your child’s disagreement, in word and action, gives insight into his beliefs.
Seek to Understand the Others’ Perspectives
What if your child were making very intelligent decisions…from his perspective!
When above the kitchen counter one sees a ceiling which looks pretty safe, it is not surprising that children place their hands on the burning stove.
Create a Safe Space to Voice Disagreements
There is a time and a place to voice a differing opinion. It’s not when rushing out the door and tension is high.
When there is no acceptable way to express differing viewpoints, disagreement can happen anywhere and anytime. It sounds like argumentation, like picking a fight in the wrong place at the wrong time.
In the grocery store while parents are trying to rush three munchkins through the crowded aisles. “I WANT_______. You NEVER let me choose!” During dinner with the grandparents. “Did dad ever ______ when he was a kid because he doesn’t let me do it.”
That’s why we love Family Meetings. It’s a scheduled time to
- check in,
- resolve issues if needed, and
- have fun
A Family Meeting is a safe space for children (and parents) to voice their issues. Knowing that the Family Meeting is coming up, provides resolution to many every-day crises.
When the kids fight (disagree) with over TV use, they can write it on the agenda of the Family Meeting.
When they don’t like veggies, they can bring it up at the Family Meeting.
With some structure to this short meeting (15 minutes a week), parents and children resolve disagreements together. They can express their feelings about the incident, share their perspective, actively listen, and work together to find better solutions which make everyone happy and feel belonging.