Teaching your child to assert themselves and express their opinion is important. We want to raise young people who can confidently share their views and know how to do this respectfully.
How can we encourage our children to have an opinion and be ready to express it?
Teach and model to your child that our opinions are not the same as facts. Giving them the language to use such as ‘I think… I feel… I believe’ will allow them to state their opinion without insinuating it is the one and only truth. Equally, in response to others’ opinions they can use the statements ‘I can see you think that…. I understand you believe…. I recognise you feel differently…’
One of the reasons children might shy away from sharing their opinion is that they are reluctant to ‘go against’ the opinion of a good friend. Help your child see that it is possible to be friends and have a difference in opinion. The more your child understands that they don’t have to think, feel and like the exact same things as their friends, the more ready they will be to express their true opinion. A helpful analogy here is to say to your child, if someone dislikes a movie you love, does that make it a bad movie? It is possible for people to have different opinions of the same movie without either view being right or wrong.
Help your child remain calm and in control when they express opinions or disagree, through using ‘I statements’. These help us move away from being aggressive, rude and confrontational, to being assertive yet respectful. ‘I feel differently and disagree’ sounds very different to ‘You’re wrong and I’m right’. By learning to define our own thoughts, beliefs and emotions we can make sure we remain respectful.
Your child will be reluctant to share their thoughts and views unless they are encouraged and positively supported when they do. There are simple ways you can encourage them to have an opinion from an early age. Asking ‘Would you rather…?’ questions is a fun way of showing them a difference of opinion is healthy and welcomed. ‘Would you rather have a pet dragon or a pet dinosaur?’ The whole family can join in, modelling how to justify your view. For older children, these can progress onto ‘Thunks’, questions which promote creative thinking often with no right or wrong answer. ‘If I paint over a window, is it still a window?’.
When your child is expressing their opinions or disagreeing, teach your child that it is important to listen as well as verbally assert themselves. Once they have used their 'I statements' to say how they feel, they should leave time for the other person to speak and then actively listen to their response. They should also remember there are ways to acknowledge a response without agreeing with it.
As with so many life skills, disagreeing respectfully and asserting an opinion are best learnt through modelling. Find every opportunity to show your child how you actively put these approaches into practice, be ready to admit mistakes and be reflective when you don’t get it quite right!
Developing confidence and knowing how to assert your opinion are also key skills when it comes to preparing for 11+ interviews. Our Collaboration Course helps children age 8-11 develop their confidence, their ability to work with others and present themselves confidently in an interview. Click here to find out more about these courses and sessions.
Louise’s recent IGTV on this topic can be found here.
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